movie film review | chris tookey

Perfect Storm

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  Perfect Storm Review
Tookey's Rating
5 /10
Average Rating
6.00 /10
George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio
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Directed by: Wolfgang Petersen
Written by: Bill Wittliff, based on the novel by Sebastian Junger

Released: 2000
Origin: US
Length: 128

There’s a lot of nasty weather about.
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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The Perfect Storm is, like the previous weather-hit Twister, worth seeing only on the big screen. The storm's the thing, and if you're in the mood to see a computer-generated 120-foot wave don't let me stop you. This movie took over 100 million dollars in the States alone, and it wasn't on account of the characters, dialogue, or critical enthusiasm.

The use of digital effects seems to have extended into the writing of the screenplay. On the rare occasions the dialogue is audible beneath James Horner's ridiculously bombastic score, it consists of stock characters mouthing such venerable cliches as "I gotta bad feeling about this", "I wanna catch some fish - it's what I do", and (too late, as always) "Let's get outa here".

It's based on real events in 1991, but a lot has been borrowed from other movies about vessels in distress. Lots of people are swept overboard but rescued, which becomes repetitive rather than exciting. The scariest moment comes when a freak wave washes up a shark up which - misunderstanding the etiquette of sushi - tries to have one of the crew members for lunch.

There is nothing perfect, or even memorable, about the long first hour, when we become acquainted with a large number of characters insufficiently well, and never really get to like them.

Wolfgang Petersen presumably was chosen to direct because of his experience on the seafaring drama Das Boot. He succeeds in creating the air of disparate people working as a team, but he's a lot less successful in establishing them as individuals.

As the skipper of the Andrea Gail, a stricken swordfishing-boat, George Clooney (pictured right) looks impressively cool and manages to retain exactly the same growth of designer stubble throughout. But he didn't strike me as an obsessive fisherman so panicked by impending poverty that he would really risk his own life and that of his crew for 60,000 dollars. It's a bit like watching Captain Ahab played by Engelbert Humperdinck.

As the rookie pining for his girlfriend, Mark Wahlberg (pictured left) never makes much impression either. And, coming so close after Three Kings, another Clooney-Wahlberg movie, did this film no favours. Three Kings had something fresh and original to say. This movie's attempt to explore buddy-buddy solidarity looks tired and even a little pathetic.

As usual in "boys' movies", and this one is more full of foolish machismo than most, the womenfolk - led by Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio and Diane Lane - have little to do except look loving, brave and tearful.

The truly heroic scenes concern the crew of a rescue helicopter which has to ditch during the storm; and I kept wondering why it wasn't their story that we were being told in depth.

Sebastian Junger's best-selling book intercut the various perspectives on the storm with some skill, and taught you a lot about fishing communities, meteorology and rescue services. The movie skimps on everything except visual sensation and close-ups of Clooney. The balance between the various protagonists is lost; and you end up lamenting the leading characters' recklessness, rather than sharing vicariously in their adventure. I should have been deeply moved at the end, but I wasn't.

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