|The (Almost) Perfect Film|
"The Perfect Storm"
Reviewed by Carlos deVillalvilla
(Click on the images to see larger version and credits.)
There is a certain romance that we landlubbers assign to the life of a fisherman. It is not an easy life, one of hard labor, patience and more often than not, frustration. Men leave their families and the comforts of home for days and weeks at a time, hoping to make a big catch that will keep them and their families heads above water when storm season makes deep sea fishing too dangerous.
The romance comes from the uncertainty of the ocean. She may be calm and give freely of her riches on one trip; the next she may give nothing but death. For the fishermen of Gloucester, Massachusetts, it's the life they've known and loved since 1623. In that time, more than 10,000 men and women of Gloucester have lost their lives in the great, unmarked grave of the North Atlantic.
The skipper of the Andrea Gail, Billy Tyne (George Clooney) knows the ocean and her fickle nature. One of the most respected captains in the Gloucester fishing fleet, he is in the middle of a horrible run of luck that has begun to get his crew doubting his abilities. Bob Brown (Michael Ironside), the boat's owner, is a bottom-line kind of guy who is thinking of replacing Tyne if he can't get the boat to pay. Under this kind of pressure, Tyne decides to take the Andrea Gail for one last run on the Grand Banks even though it is October, and the Banks are no joke in October.
His crew, including the young, starry-eyed-in-love Bobby Shatford (Mark Wahlberg) and the teddy bear-ish divorcee Murph (John C. Reilly) know the risks, but are willing to follow the captain if it will mean a fat paycheck. However, as the voyage continues and the scarcity of a catch has begun to weigh heavily on their minds, Tyne decides to push for the Flemish Cap, east of the Banks and on the edge of the Andrea Gail's range. There, they finally begin to have the kind of trip they've been dreaming of.
What they don't know is that three weather fronts -- a cold front from Canada, an embryonic Atlantic storm just waiting for enough energy to turn it into a monster, and Hurricane Grace, a category five storm moving north from Bermuda -- are about to collide and turn the North Atlantic into a buzzsaw. And, because their radio antenna was destroyed (one of a series of mishaps that have plagued the trip), they don't know they are headed straight into the maw of the mother of all storms.
Of course, this is the kind of script that even Hollywood screenwriters couldn't dream up without a little help. The events of "The Perfect Storm" actually happened, with waves verified at over 100 feet (think of a wall of water the size of a seven-story building coming your way and you'll get the idea).
Director Wolfgang Petersen ("Das Boot," "Air Force One") captures the harshness of a fisherman's life, as well as the courage that all fishermen must possess to brave the sometimes deadly seas. He also captures the agony of those who love them and must wait for their safe return. The people here are not wealthy or famous; they are ordinary, blue-collar folks who work hard to make ends meet (barely). They are heroic in the ways that we are heroic, struggling to make something better for our families.
The cast, which includes a nearly-skeletal Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio (when did she get so gaunt?), a too-rarely-seen Karen Allen, Bob Gunton and Diane Lane, all give solid performances as people whose lives are changed forever because of the storm. The
The real star of the movie is the Atlantic herself. Changeable in mood, eternal in her allure, she beckons the fisherfolk of Gloucester with a saucy wink and gentle, caressing whispers of wealth and wonder. And, like a woman, for all her beauty and charm, sooner or later she shows her volatile side. Still, I believe that not one of the 10,000 souls who went to their rest at the bottom of the sea would have traded their lives, even knowing their end, for any other. Perhaps that is the greatest mystery of all.
Da Queen lost count of her hankies for this one, so you can draw your own conclusions. The movie drags a bit during the fishing portion of the movie (think of "Bassmasters" on the Main and you'll catch the drift) while the storm develops, but once it gets rolling, the tension doesn't let up a bit. "The Perfect Storm" falls just short of being the perfect summer movie, but only JUST short.
See cast, credit and other details about "The Perfect Storm" at Internet Movie Data Base.