The Perfect Storm is a well-intentioned, escapist entertainment based around a true-life natural disaster.In 1991, a fishing trawler (the Andrea Gail) was caught in a freak collision of three storms off the coast of Massachusetts. Wolfgang Petersen's film focuses on the six-man crew of the Gail, drawing on Sebastian Junger's speculative account of events. The film's highlights are the action sequences set during the storms. Filmed in a giant water tank, enhanced by digital effects, some of the set pieces are jaw-clenchingly awesome. Unfortunately, the backstory of this drama - rooted as it is in real life - is reproduced on screen as Hollywood cliche.
Mark Wahlberg has a wonderful, relaxed presence in some of his early scenes as rookie fisherman Bobby, but even his enthusiasm can't make the lame dialogue convincing. Diane Lane attacks her limited role as the girlfriend-waiting-anxiously-at-home with such gritty determination you'd think she was out on the boat tackling forty foot waves herself. Besides George Clooney as the stoic Captain Tyne, the other fisherman are stock characters, with simplified home lives or dilemmas to resolve (and the non-white typically gets less focus than his white co-workers). This is standard fare in a film like Twister, but especially disheartening here since these characters are real people.
After some poorly manufactured disasters in the first forty-five minutes (a shark attack and a man pulled overboard are all in a day's work for this crew apparently), it's a relief to finally get to the action sequences. Best of these are some daring and heroic coast guard rescues (which additionally benefit from featuring characters who don't have time or opportunity to attempt a conversation). Worst of all is the poor man at the weather bureau who has to show excitement at the meteorological significance of the storms, explain to the audience what it all means, and deliver lines about a "disaster of epic proportions" with a straight face.The fishing sequences have an authentic grittiness to them and the cast and crew have obviously done some research (by all accounts, Junger certainly did). But it's hard to believe in the realism of events, when the characters taking part in them are so unrealistic and mono-dimensional.