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The Perfect Storm
2000 - PG-13 - NA Mins.
Director: Wolfgang Petersen
Producer: Gail Katz, Paula Weinstein, Wolfgang Petersen
Written By: William D. Wittliff, Bo Goldman, Jennifer Flackett
Starring: George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Diane Lane, John C. Reilly, William Fichtner
Review by: David Trier
   
The preview says "They didn't ask to be heroes." I say, "That's good because they weren't."

The film takes place in the romantic era of Gloucester, MA, 1991. The fishing heroes upon which the town depends have come back without much of a catch. Frustrated, Captain Billy Tyne (George Clooney) believes he will have more success if he goes farther out. Despite the usual you-don't-know-what's-out-there warnings, Tyne manages to get a team of fisherman together for the trip. The team includes Bobby (Mark Wahlberg) who's wife (Diane Lane) is less than thrilled to see him go, Sully (William Fitchner) the resident shady character, Murph (John C. Reilly) the guy that doesn't get along with Sully, Pierre (Allen Payne) the black guy with the incomprehensible dialect, and Bugsy (John Hawkes) the likeable weasel. Weatherman Todd Gross (Christopher MacDonald) discovers a phenomenon in which three storms collide creating one big one. Fellow fisherperson and could-a-been love interest, Linda Greenlaw (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio), tries to radio the news to Tyne. The Captain and his men choose to go through the storm on their way home because they caught a whole bunch of fish and would hate to lose the money. This proves to be not worth it because they all die. In the meantime, a group of Coast Guards risk their lives to save a rich schmuck (Bob Gunton) and two women also stranded in the storm.

There are a few positive attributes to this film. The cast is pretty good. I used to think George Clooney was a graduate of the bob-your-head-a-lot-when-you-can't-emote school of acting, but I'll stand corrected. Nobody should be held accountable for Batman and Robin. Although his character leaves a lot to be desired and none of his decisions make a whole lot of sense, Clooney's performance is quite good. Despite still not having forgiven him completely for being Marky Mark and for being in the movie Fear, I have to admit Mark Wahlberg is a decent actor too and he delivers a fair performance. William Fitchner and John C. Reilly are fantastic character actors and despite being poorly scripted, they both deliver. John Hawkes, probably the only likeable character (because he's so dorky), is very easy to watch and we'll probably be seeing more of him in upcoming flicks. Rusty Schwimmer has a nice scene with him in a bar and she's been working a lot lately too. The storm effects are decent, but the schtick gets a little boring after the first couple of stormy scenes. You have to give credit, though, when you consider how difficult it must have been to get some of those action sequences to work. The two most exciting moments by far include a scene where one of them gets his hand caught on a hook and goes flying overboard and another great moment when Jaws lands on the boat in a big wave.

Poor Diane Lane has the most laughable part in the film. She's not a bad actress and she's pretty easy on the eyes, but her New England accent was pretty forced. Plus she was the only one that seemed to have one. At one point her character flips out at the fishing boss (good old Michael Ironside) and blames him for her husband being stranded at sea... even though he told them not to go. Other completely wasted characters include the weatherman (good old Christopher MacDonald) who only seems to exist to explain to us why this storm is such a big deal and his assistant that only seems to be there so it doesn't look like he's talking to himself.

Had this film been about the brave Coast Guards (one of whom drowns) who risked it all to save people trapped in the worst of all storms, this might have been a moving, exciting, and worthwhile tribute. But instead The Perfect Storm tries to glorify a group of unappealing characters who purposefully enter the storm for money. Money. Now apparently this is based on a true story (which would seem impossible to recount since all the fishermen drown at sea) and one has to feel sorry for these average joes who must have died in such a horrific way. But it's hard to believe that dying in a horrific way warrants a major motion picture. The whole first half hour (at least) is a completely transparent setup for disaster and the only thing on your mind is, why isn't it raining yet? The dramatic conflicts between the characters couldn't be less interesting because they're so scripted and forced. And one can't help but notice that the music starts out overdramatic in the beginning and gradually gets worse. Plus, it never stops so you always feel like you're being manipulated into caring and it always looks like some big budget commercial. James Horner is a great composer (Thunderheart, Sneakers, and Glory all had unbelievable soundtracks) but this one has just the standard oh-isn't-this-moving orchestrations.

All in all, this movie is just another misguided big budget rip-off with the occasional cool moment. Wolfgang Petersen definitely has a good cinematic eye. The Neverending Story and Shattered (a well-written, well-shot but sort of lame movie anyway) and Das Boot are testaments to his talent. But too much money (perhaps) is sending him down the road most of the great directors have been headed. Of course, it's the road most ticket-buyers live on.
 
Movie Guru Rating
Disappointing.  Had the right ingredients and should have been better. Disappointing.  Had the right ingredients and should have been better.
  2 out of 5 stars

 
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