THE PERFECT STORM (2000) **1/2 movie review by COOP

Posted on May 14th, 2008
Posted on May 14th, 2008

Adapted from the best selling book and based on a true story, “The Perfect Storm” proved to be one of the most anticipated movies of the summer season. The harrowing tale of a fishing boat, caught in the “Storm of the Century,” may have been fascinating as a book, but the story doesn’t hold water on the screen.

One of the most difficult things in reviewing “The Perfect Storm” is giving a thorough evaluation without giving away the ending. Mainly in part because I feel that the problems that the film had were directly caused by the outcome of history. I imagine many people already know from reading the book, but the others wouldn’t appreciate the spoiler. Therefore, I will attempt to give a spoiler-free review as best to my abilities.

George Clooney stars as Billy Tyne, captain of the “Andrea Gail,” and a stubborn fisherman determined to make up for his poor crop of fish. He convinces Bobby Shatford (Mark Wahlberg) and the rest of his crew to take an extra trip to the far edges of the Flemish Cap where the catch is plentiful. Meanwhile, two hurricanes collide; causing some of the roughest seas humankind has ever witnessed. Desperate to get their catch back before it spoils, the foolhardy sailors journey into the center of the storm, while their loved ones back home wait and pray for their safe return.

Unimpressive acting cheapens the mood of this piece. Clooney seems too stoic and wooden to be interesting. John C. Reilly, William Fichtner and John Hawks do very well as the motley crew. Even they get to develop their characters more than the lead actors do since they have some of the most interesting scenes in the film. Mark Wahlberg pulls off a terrific regional, Massachusetts accent (only because he’s originally from the area), but his character leaves much to be desired. Many of the other actors’ accents seem phony and grating.

I was expecting more from veteran sea director Wolfgang Petersen. His German, WWII submarine film, “Das Boot,” ranks with some of the best films ever made. His other entertaining movies, such as “Airforce One” and “In the Line of Fire,” proved his desire to be a mainstream, Hollywood filmmaker. I don’t think he could have made a watchable movie from the story of “The Perfect Storm,” given the outcome of the true-life events. It was a tough job but in my mind, it didn’t seem possible to succeed. I still look forward to his next effort.

The disjointed elements of the plot seriously hurt the flow of the story. The scenes kept bouncing around to too many unrelated parties: The townspeople of Gloucester, Bobby Shatford’s fiancé, two separate Coast Guard rescue units, a sinking sailboat of screaming vacationers, a weatherman, and the crew of the “Andrea Gail.” The inter-cutting within all of those people became distracting and episodic, especially since most of these elements never cross paths. Strangely enough, the most fascinating part of the film was the scenes involving the Coast Guard. I would’ve preferred to see more of that element than the crew of the “Andrea Gail.” I’m not suggesting that they should’ve changed the history of events from the movie, just the focus. In doing so, I think they could’ve made a much more enthralling film.

Lots of viewers could enjoy this film simply on the level of the storm itself. The storm is definitely the star of the film and makes “The Perfect Storm” somewhat worth watching… However, that doesn’t happen until after half of the film has passed. Parents should have no objections to letting their kids see it, given it’s “PG-13” rating, but with the inconsistent pacing and the 129 minute running time, I expect a younger audience would get bored.

Scale of 1-10:
2 ½

Most refreshing aspect of the film:
The special effects. Not only was the storm the star of the show, it looked real. The tremendous swells and breaks had a commanding presence. They invoked awe and tension from the scenes that they dominated. My favorite shots showed the monster from planetary orbit, swirling and churning. Unfortunately, I believe the storm should have never been the focus. It should have been about the characters. A more character-driven story would have complimented the spectacular effects a bit more.

Biggest gripe:
How the story unfolded based on the outcome of the true events. This is where it’s hard not to give away the ending. All I will say is that I think the focus of the plot should not have been the crew of the “Andrea Gail.” After they set sail, the focus should have shifted to the townspeople and the events surrounding the storm. It would have lacked many of the special effects, but the story would have seemed more genuine.

Biggest surprise:
The disappointingly awful performance of Diane Lane. Her acting as Bobby Shatford’s fiancé, Chris, left a lot to be desired. With a ridiculously fake accent, she needlessly overacted her part and became the most annoying aspect of the movie. Very disheartening considering her excellent and touching role in this year’s earlier “My Dog Skip.” Strange how she could pull off a decent Mississippi drawl, yet completely blow a thick, New England dialect. Instead of playing over-the-top, histrionic love interests, she should stick to playing tougher, more headstrong characters. That seems to compliment her talents more.

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