Movie Magazine International

The Perfect Storm

USA - 2000

Movie Review By Casey McCabe

According to Warner Brothers' publicity notes "the sound of the wind in a storm is distinct at each level of severity. Force Nine is a scream. Force Ten is a shriek. Force Eleven is a moan. Force Twelve is a church organ played by a child: its fierce winds inhaling air, water, earth and everything humankind puts within its reach. No one who has heard it can possibly ever forget it." Unquote. Such a storm, which actually took place off the New England coast on Halloween of 1991, is the faceless monster at the center of Wolfgang Petersen's new film "The Perfect Storm," based on Sebastian Junger's best-selling book. So how does this unforgettable Force Twelve storm sound in full theatrical Dolby stereo? We'll never know. All we get are the fearful strings, foreboding horns and tragic woodwinds of composer James Horner’s incessant soundtrack. And this is just one of many ways "The Perfect Storm" sucks the air out of a perfectly good story.

The storm itself is a marvel of computer graphics special effects. But in order to care about the lives hanging at the crest of that hundred foot swell, the film must beef up the fearless crew of the Andrea Gail, led by George Clooney's Captain Billy Tyne. With the clock ticking, every piece of dialogue is precious. And screenwriter William Wittliff makes sure that every interchange is jam-packed with backstory and foreshadowing, creating dialogue that goes something like this:

"You know, Billy, you've been a legendary swordboat Captain for years, but unless you start bringing in some fish, your legend and all your hopes and dreams could be shattered like a bottle on the rocks."

"Yeah? Well I happen to believe in myself. And the brave men in my crew, each one with his own poignant reason for living. So I guess I'll just take my chances."

"Well you know what I always say….it would take a freak convergence of meteorological events to stop Captain Billy Tyne! Say….is that a dark cloud on the horizon?"

And so this is the story of the ill-fated crew of the Andrea Gail and the stalwart women who pine for them back home. Well yes, and also about three people caught in a pleasure boat, and the truly heroic efforts of the Coast Guard to save them. Given that the film already has a paint by numbers feel, we anticipate the moment when all these lives intersect. But surprise, they never really do. Not to give away too much of the film, but there's the nagging problem that no one could possibly know what exactly took place on the Andrea Gail during the last half of this based-on-a-true story film. And if you think about it for too long, you might notice that another reason our crew is in this pickle is a convergence of human arrogance, stupidity and greed.

If you can overlook all this, you might enjoy "The Perfect Storm." I suspect the filmmakers were really out to create The Perfect Date Movie. Men get to enjoy an action packed high seas adventure. Women get to swoon for the ruggedly stoic Clooney and Mark Wahlberg. Then afterwards the men can say "hey, I can always quit shaving and leave you at home for weeks at a time"...and then the women can say...

Oh forget it. There's nothing perfect about "The Perfect Storm." Except for its poster. Too bad the rest of the film can't hang with that image.

© 2000 - Casey McCabe - Air Date: 6/28/00

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