Perfect Storm [2000]

Setting out for the one last catch that will make up for a lackluster fishing season, Captain Billy Tyne (George Clooney) pushes his boat the Andrea Gail out to the waters of the Flemish Cap off Nova Scotia for what will be a huge swordfish haul. While his crew is gathering fish, three storm fronts (including a hurricane) collide to create a "perfect storm" of colossal force, and Billy's path back to Gloucester, Massachusetts, takes them right smack into the middle of it. Wolfgang Petersen's adaptation of Sebastian Junger's seafaring bestseller is a faithful if by-the-numbers true-story account of a monster storm that rocked New England in 1991, specifically Tyne's commercial fishing boat and its crew. Junger's tale fashioned a compelling if staid narrative out of seemingly disparate events, but this film adaptation tends to flatten out the story into a conventional if absorbing story of man vs. nature, as the crew fights for survival against the awesome waves the storm kicks up. The central part of the film, which cuts between the Andrea Gail's fight to stay afloat and the attempts of the Coast Guard to rescue a yacht in peril, is suspenseful action of the first degree, aided by some awesome computer-generated waves. Still, it's a long way to that action, with an extended first act that consists mainly of stoic men, crying women, and a fair amount of "don't go out into the sea" dialogue--in other words, a compelling story has been shoehorned into standard summer movie fare. It's too bad, as Peterson assembled an excellent cast--including Mark Wahlberg, Diane Lane, John C. Reilly, and William Fichtner among them--but seems to opt for only a surface exploration of these characters, though Clooney seems to have a touch of Captain Ahab in him. You may still be won over by the movie, but for a more in-depth portrait, go to Junger's book for the missing details. --Mark Englehart

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