The Perfect Storm

I affectionately call The Perfect Storm “The Perfect Snore.” It’s hard to find a movie like The Perfect Storm. It is a movie with all the makings of a perfect movie, but somehow it fails miserably.

In October 1991, a storm like no other kicked up in the Atlantic. Trapped in this storm is the boat Andrea Gail, onboard the ship is a crew of grubby looking men and a million odd dollars of swordfish. It’s hard to say what bothered me about this film, since it will spoil the film, but it rests completely on the reliability of the story.

The first half of the film deals with meeting the crew of the Andrea Gail and the people around them. Meet captain Billy Tyne (George Clooney), Bobby Shatford (Mark Wahlberg), Dale Murphy (John C. Reilly), David Sullivan (William Fichtner), Bugsy Moran (John Hawkes), and Alfred Pierre (Allen Payne). Now that you’ve met the crew, meet their wives, girlfriends, and women they meet at the local pub. Got all of those characters down? Now meet the captain of the other boat, Linda Greenland (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio); the owner of the company that owns both boats, the evil Bob Brown (Michael Ironside); a weather forecaster who seems to get too excited by storms, Todd Gross (Christopher McDonald); the crew of a sailboat also trapped in the storm; the crew of a Coast Guard ship out to rescue everyone; and finally the crew of a helicopter that never seems to go down. Now, after an hour of watching, you have all those people in mind. What should you do? Throw out all of them, except the crew of the Andrea Gail - the others, though used throughout the film, are mostly fluff.

The second half of the film focuses on the storm. Instead of focusing on how the storm and the impending gloom of death are affecting the crew, director Wolfgang Peterson focuses on “high five moments.” One after another, we get scenes in which a crewmember’s life is put into danger. But, miraculously they are saved and after this miracle, all around the boat are high fives and cheering. After the first two, this started getting old.

The special effects employed in the film are a mixed bag. Some are incredible (seeing a little fishing boat crawling up the face of a multi-storied high wave is incredible) but some are just incredulous (the whole helicopter routine, with some funny physics to go with it, was laughable).

On the acting front, everyone does what they can given the amount of characters in the film - and the limited amount of lines each actor has. Clooney, who I like a lot, is believable as the captain of the doomed ship. Wahlberg is, well, Mark Wahlberg again. Wahlberg doesn’t seem to have a wide range of acting skills, and though he does what he does well, I’m still not impressed with him as an actor. The other actors, well, they’re all a blur. John C. Reilly and William Fichtner are put into many more catfights than needed. Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio is put into the “return home safely dear” role. And Diane Lane, who plays Wahlberg’s wife, doesn’t get more that what Mastrantonio gets.

My disappointment comes from seeing a cast and crew of such potential in such a mediocre film. First, director Wolfgang Peterson is a disappointment. He put together such tense and interesting films as Das Boot and In The Line of Fire, why couldn’t he have injected some of that intenseness into this bland and tedious film? Second, although there is a fine cast onboard, there are so many characters in the script that the duty of each actor gets diluted. Had the film concentrated on just the crew of the Andrea Gail and their emotional state, it would have been an intense film. And lastly, the special effects by ILM are disappointing - with quality wavering all over the place.

The Perfect Storm can be summed up by a laughable scene with Mark Wahlberg. Wahlberg is floating in the sea, bobbing up and down in slow motion, he is doing a voice-over, and superimposed on the screen with him is Diane Lane smiling and waving. The silliness of this scene, when one sees it, is the exclamation point to a dull film. Should you see this film? Sure, if you have extra time, if it is a matinee showing, and most importantly, if you’ve had a good night’s sleep. There’s nothing even close to perfect about The Perfect Storm.