The Perfect Storm

The Perfect Storm

**1/2

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

If it wasn't for the people, this might have been a nail chewer. The disaster movie formula is followed to the letter. There is no room for quirky individualism, as writer Bill Wittliff shovels on the sentimentality. Even the dialogue is highlighted with italics.

First, you meet the fishermen. Then, you meet their ladies. Billy Tyne (George Clooney), skipper of The Andrea Gail, doesn't have one, which is odd, since he's decked out in manly sweaters, sporting a designer stubble that grows into a sexy wraparound. He's married to the sea, of course. "I always find the fish. Always!"

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Prominent amongst the ladies-who-wait is Christina (Diane Lane), who wants Bobby (Mark Wahlberg) to quit his stupid job and settle down. He makes some feeble excuse about having to pay the bills and she says, "Money! It's always about money." He doesn't argue with a cliche, simply signs on for another trip. She goes all clingy. "Don't go, Bobby. I've got a bad feeling." She's not the only one.

This meet-the-folks schmaltz is a prelude to the second half, where Industrial Light & Magic test their computer-generated skills in the big tank. The Andrea Gail goes to work, heads off to The Flemish Cap ("Lots of fish. Lots of weather," warns an old-timer), becomes trapped in hurricane waves and battles for survival.

The thing about storms is that visibility goes AWOL. Cinematically that can be a problem, especially when shooting inside a wheelhouse. You don't know what's going on, except there's water, water everywhere and the crew are being washed about the deck like garbage.

Taking a break from Skip Billy's battering, the plot sidetracks to a yacht in trouble and a rescue helicopter that swoops to its aid. Suddenly, the story of The Andrea Gail becomes the story of the storm itself, as the chopper runs out of gas and everyone is very brave and a coastguard vessel takes the role of the cavalry in a John Wayne Western.

The actors are overwhelmed by the effects. Clooney gives no indication that Skip Billy is anything but a cardboard cut-out. Wahlberg smiles and grimaces with the same expression. His attempt at growing a beard is a total failure. The only crew members with a hint of character are the ever-reliable John C Reilly and John Hawkes, as a mechanic. The men smoke, the women cry and the TV weatherman says, "Oh my God, it's happening!" Batten down the brain cells. You won't be needing them.

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
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Soggy disaster flick.
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