Ric Roman Waugh, 2013
A full $140 million dollars was plunged into The Perfect Storm, Wolfgang Petersen’s exercise in futility posing as a summer blockbuster. What exactly was this money invested in? The heavyhanded, absurdly meandering movie goes through all the motions, presenting us with almost a full hour of exposition before actually getting underway, only to have its characters just sort of peter out. It deliveres the promised storm fury but the special effects, though impressive in scope, feel perfunctory and uninspired.
Based on Sebastian Junger’s best selling fact-based novel, The Perfect Storm tells the story of a group of fisherman who, in an effort to make a comeback from their recent slump, run right into the storm of the century. Before we ever get to that, though, the film meticulously goes over our protagonists’ personal lives. We learn that Captain Billy Tyne (George Clooney) is consistently getting poorer results from his fishing expeditions. Bobby Shatford (Mark Wahlberg) is madly in love with Christina (Diane Lane), a beautiful woman who is dead set against his going out on the boat so often. Dale Murphy (John C. Reilly) is divorced, has a kid who loves him and worries that his ex may have already found a replacement for him. David Sullivan (William Fichtner) absolutely despises Dale, though we never really find out why. Finally, Linda Greenlaw (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio) is a rival captain who’s been having an exceptional streak of good luck.
Eventually, all but Linda leave the Gloucester port on an elderly fishing boat named “Andrea Gail.” They set off for a faraway fishing ground, hoping to strike marine gold. They do just that, collecting the most fish in years. But then, the boat’s refrigirator breaks and in an effort to salvage his career, Billy makes the decision to book it home, even though that means going right through the middle of a monster storm that has developed between the “Andrea Gail” and Gloucester.
We spend the film’s last third watching our main characters and a helicopter rescue team furiously battle it out with the powerful hurricane. And here’s the kicker: the boat’s whole crew dies. The whole lot, Billy Tyne included, succumb to the sea. After a valiant fight, “Andrea Gail” is flipped over by a particularly high wave and all of its occupants instantly become easy pickings.
Not much is shown after this. We see a funeral, at which Linda tearfully mumbles something about the joy of swordboat fishing. That’s it. Here’s a question which struck me as particularly interesting (ignoring, for a moment, that this is a true story and judging the movie on its own merits): if this was Wolfgang Petersen’s intention, to simply kill off his characters and roll the credits, what was the point of The Perfect Storm‘s whole first hour? Why spend that much time rounding out characters that will inevitably become faceless victims of a particuarly violent hurricane? The ending renders the whole movie pointless.
The special effects, so vigorously flaunted in the masterful trailer, are often dazzling but they lack soul. While the constant danger of drowning is certainly palpable, we never feel the threatening presence of the storm itself. Since the characters can’t be the film’s stars, for reason’s I’ve already mentioned, it would have been nice of the hurricane itself could have filled the void, but despite the expensive and convincing simulation, the actual storm never reaches a real climax.
The only real bright spot here is Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, who brings a soul to every character she plays, no matter how insignificant. Other than that and the initially interesting special effects, The Perfect Storm is, alas, a summer blockbuster to skip.
-- Eugene Novikov
|Starring:||George Clooney, John C. Reilly, Mark Wahlberg|
|Directed by:||Wolfgang Petersen|