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Overall Rating

Awesome: 23.3%
Worth A Look37.5%
Average: 19.89%
Pretty Bad: 10.8%
Total Crap: 8.52%

9 reviews, 122 user ratings

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Perfect Storm, The
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by Rob Gonsalves

"Waterlogged version of a tight book."
3 stars

Sebastian Junger's bestseller 'The Perfect Storm' is a first-rate piece of journalism -- compact and packed, loaded with anecdotes about life on fishing boats, the effects of a hurricane, and so on (he even tosses in a pretty frightening passage on what drowning feels like).

Junger assembled all this information around a void -- the void left by the Halloween Storm, the October 1991 convergence of three volatile weather events that destroyed, among other things, the Gloucester swordfishing boat the Andrea Gail.

Aside from the basic fact that the boat was lost at sea (only a couple of fuel cans were ever recovered), nothing is known about what happened to the ship or the men aboard. Junger's account is mainly informed conjecture about what might have happened. The new movie version is conjecture, too, but it's informed by Hollywood conventions. The Perfect Storm, competently directed by Wolfgang Petersen (Das Boot, Air Force One), comes across like Apollo 13 without radio contact and with a downer ending.

The characters are defined chiefly by action -- what they do under pressure tells us who they are -- but since they behave more or less like generic movie people, what does that really tell us? Despite its poignant basis in fact, The Perfect Storm is only a small notch above Armageddon and many other disaster thrillers. The real-life men are recast as stereotypes: Captain Billy Tyne (George Clooney), the hard-bitten veteran skipper who wants to go out for one last big haul; Bobby Shatford (Mark Wahlberg), an eager rookie with a passionate girlfriend (Diane Lane) waiting at home; loyal, fuzzy-wuzzy Murph (John C. Reilly); shifty troublemaker Sully (William Fichtner, whose features have doomed him to playing shifty guys); bedraggled loser Bugsy (John Hawkes), who can't even get laid before he ships out; and the West Indian Alfred Pierre (Allen Payne), who has, I think, a grand total of three distinct lines of dialogue.

The nervous grouchiness of men at sea, dealing with a lethal natural menace while rubbing each other's nerves raw, probably couldn't be handled better than it was in Jaws, and The Perfect Storm doesn't come close. (Twenty-five years later, you remember Quint and Brody and Hooper a hell of a lot more vividly than you'll remember Billy or Bobby after a week.) There isn't a bummer in the cast, but all of the actors play second fiddle to the elements, and Petersen has cast a variety of intriguing actresses only to shove them into the margins. Diane Lane, for instance, tries so hard to do something fresh with her stock girlfriend-in-waiting that she overplays almost every scene she's in. Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, as a nearby boat captain, has a radio microphone grafted to her hand for most of the film (it's easy to forget she's supposed to be playing Linda Greenlaw, an author in her own right); and it's nice to see Cherry Jones (Cradle Will Rock) and Karen Allen getting work, but why waste them as two women trapped on an imperilled sailboat who have almost no dialogue?

If you go to see bad weather, The Perfect Storm gives you probably a good 45 minutes of it, as the Andrea Gail is batted around the sea like a toy boat in the bathtub of a sadistic kid. We feel batted around, too, and the effect, cumulatively, is less overwhelming than overbearing. The movie devolves into spectacle, a series of CGI shots for us to ooh and aah at. If we know the story's outcome, all the strenuous efforts the men go through seem like a sick joke, but the movie works hard to ennoble them anyway. The climax is monotonous and punishing -- after 45 minutes of waves hammering the boat, you say, Okay, we get it.

The grinding sameness of the violent sea makes you appreciate James Cameron's handling of the chaos in Titanic, which had some incongruous visual beauty going for it. The only hint of beauty in The Perfect Storm -- and it's a chilling moment, and George Clooney's moment of glory -- comes when the Andrea Gail abruptly enters glass-smooth waters and sunny skies. Everyone on board is ecstatic except Billy, who knows the worst is yet to come; they've just moved into a safe, small pocket in between storms. Clooney's wordless horror in the face of sunshine is more terrifying than anything the special-effects whizzes came up with.

But The Perfect Storm isn't truly fatuous until the very end, when it's suggested that sweet, saintly Bobby somehow contacted his girlfriend in a dream before he drowned. Of course, we don't clearly see any of the men die, presumably out of respect for their families. But if you're going to respect real-life tragedy, you don't make a much-hyped summer movie out of it. This empty memorial to those lost at sea is really only about the realistic mayhem made possible by computer imaging.

For all its technical advances, 'The Perfect Storm' can't do what Junger did: make you feel what it's like to work on the sea and die under it.

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originally posted: 01/15/07 05:21:32
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User Comments

9/13/17 morris campbell fairly exciting some good effects 3 stars
4/15/15 stanley welles the perfect bore 1 stars
8/27/09 Stonie After reading the book, twice, knew it would be a great film. And it was! 5 stars
2/29/08 Tammy Kennedy it was good, sad. I like movies based on true events 4 stars
2/16/07 Vip Ebriega Wasn't my favorite in the genre, but still worth your time. 3 stars
1/24/07 Matt The storm is stunning, but overall the film is a damp squib. Disappointing. 3 stars
1/15/07 Gloria Dornin ok, i am afraid of water, this made me hyper, but wow, scary that it was true 5 stars
1/15/07 David Pollastrini a bit slow in places but still good 4 stars
6/03/06 MP Bartley Simplistic and po-faced script mar an otherwise gripping thriller. 4 stars
12/30/05 Agent Sands Yawn. 3 stars
8/23/05 Quigley the CG is pretty amazing; that 100-foot wave was tight. not a real sea classic in the end. 4 stars
8/20/05 ES Why the hell didn't they head for Portugal and sell the fish there? = not recommended 3 stars
6/25/05 Mr Fluffy Very wet. Very windy. The Perfect Storm. Does what it says on the tin. 4 stars
6/22/05 Manu Ginobli Pahk da cah in hahbid yahd! 4 stars
6/08/05 Indrid Cold Fantastic dipiction of the fisherman's life. Too simplistic to be a classic though. 4 stars
11/09/04 Monster W. Kung The most annoying movie score ever? 3 stars
8/07/04 Anthony G marky mark cant act for shit 2 stars
6/21/04 876 It's Okay 3 stars
5/19/04 John really qiute good in the begining but atruly melodramatic and sappy ending spoils the fun 2 stars
5/13/04 qulqlan Totally captivating; really hits home. 5 stars
9/08/03 Kyle Pretty good until the ending really ruined the whole thing! 3 stars
8/03/03 Lia Did they have accents? I don't really care. I didn't notice. 3 stars
7/23/03 Flounder An excellent movie 5 stars
6/26/03 cochese I liked it, its not a masterpiece, but it worked. 4 stars
5/13/03 scottyrobotty fisherman trying to get a lot of money are heroes? we don't know what happened w/out radio 1 stars
4/22/03 Eloise Male bonding on a boat......and then they all die, The End. 1 stars
4/04/03 Jack Bourbon Sorry, sucked. NO MORE FAKE BOSTON ACCENTS, EVER!!! 2 stars
3/22/03 Jack Sommersby Characters & story at service of f/x. Clooney and Lane are wasted. 2 stars
3/17/03 Peter Clooney and Wahlberg still stuck in 1991. They both ROCK!!! 5 stars
1/11/03 R.W. Welch Watchable, but acting and script are nothing to write home about. 3 stars
1/11/03 Desperado Terrible. How do they know what happened if nobody lived to tell it. Come on. Ending sucked 1 stars
11/15/02 Stevo Sometimes silly but not at all bad really. 4 stars
11/06/02 Charles Tatum Melodramatic bilge with cool effects 2 stars
9/19/02 Spike I was really spellbound. I would watch this again. 5 stars
7/05/02 KMG Went to Gloucester, MA after the movie came out...Crow's Nest is across the street 4 stars
5/23/02 Carrie Kohl The fallacy of a "true story" that nobody lived to tell. 3 stars
4/01/02 Pascal Even the huge CG waves are boring 2 stars
12/10/01 Tam Forgettable and BORING! All the actors look as if they'd rather be somewhere else. 2 stars
12/01/01 Scottish Kilt predictable piece of pish, more glorious failure. 2 stars
11/23/01 Andrew Carden Long, Boring, Tiring, Unfunny, Badly Done, and Just Totally Dull Movie. 1 stars
11/19/01 Maurice. Entertaining by why would you pat the captian on the back just before you drown 4 stars
9/23/01 Larry Smith Way to Go... Mr. Clooney! 5 stars
9/17/01 Rebecca Wahlberg they should have trimmed mark's hair and beard and luckily they showed his pecks. 3 stars
8/19/01 Dr. Thompson Clooney and Wahberg are hollywoods most romantic couple 3 stars
8/18/01 Trish Thrilling and heartbreaking, with awesome special effects 4 stars
8/06/01 Amy Hello people!! It rocked!! You can't change a true story!! 5 stars
7/28/01 Steve The way it ended made the entire second half totally pointless. Didn't like it at all. 1 stars
7/17/01 Elvisfan Not worth more than one viewing, if that..annoying script & actors dominate 1 stars
4/19/01 Tam A mediocre script and half-arsed acting undermine flawless special effects. 2 stars
4/05/01 Hawkeye Eight dollars worth of water, and it doesn't even look real. Characterization? Forget it. 1 stars
3/16/01 Terrie Smith Leave out the special effects and the film is very predictable. Rather disappointing. 3 stars
3/09/01 Helen What the hell is so "good" about a ship going up a big wave over and over again?? 1 stars
2/24/01 the dodo not too bad but... 5 stars
2/15/01 KyLe*BrOfLoVsKi Should've been called "The Perfect Snore"..oh, wait...that was the "Mad" magazine parody. 2 stars
2/01/01 Dan Waldman May have worked as a documentary. As a drama, it sank. 2 stars
1/23/01 Bruce I loved this movie, I really thought it was excellent 5 stars
1/20/01 Ground Zero much better than Twister and Deep Impact 5 stars
1/17/01 The Terminator Wolfgang Petersen is a very underrated director 5 stars
1/14/01 Invader Slow boring shite with a weak performance by Cloony, despite his looks. 2 stars
1/13/01 Jake Exceeded my expectations, one of the best action movies of the year 5 stars
1/11/01 Matt69 O.K., but a major let down. Movie was all special effects. 3 stars
1/04/01 Msitrab One of yhe best of 2000 5 stars
12/31/00 kevin THis movie was unrealistic and fake. The fish looked like ham bones. D 2 stars
12/21/00 Connoisseur thw orst movie I've seen this year 1 stars
12/10/00 T.Smith Markey Mark is a pud wack. Are him and Clooney dating or what? 2 stars
11/29/00 Monday Morning Nice departure from action films that depend on guns, karate and car chases. 4 stars
11/23/00 Rachel Dershem This is a terrific movie. George was wonderful as Billy Tyne, all the actors did a great j 5 stars
11/19/00 The Bomb 69 one of the year's best, actually had no interest in seeing it exceeded my expectations 5 stars
11/17/00 Trina not to bad of a movie although the ending sucks 3 stars
10/24/00 JC23 An action movie that is actually good 5 stars
10/18/00 dan good until the stupid ending! 4 stars
10/01/00 Tom Budgen The best film i have ever seen, the effects are spell-binding, 10 out of 10 movie! 5 stars
9/22/00 White Rabbit Wow! What a ride!! 5 stars
9/10/00 the acting sucked good special efects 4 stars
8/24/00 David Seah There's no goodbye, there's only SUCK! 1 stars
8/09/00 Bueller Cut-aways to sub-sub-sub-plots were distracting, but otherwise, a good movie. Great score. 4 stars
8/09/00 Matthew Bartley It's hard to take seriously a film that has the word fish in it so many times.But it rocks! 5 stars
8/08/00 Viking Ignore the story and enjoy the visual effects !!! 4 stars
8/05/00 Bruce Takes a while to get going, after that it is an edge of your seat movie 5 stars
8/05/00 Hulahula Pick a different flick! If you're an actor aren't you supposed to be able to act? 2 stars
8/01/00 Doglantern s'ok. Probably good if you are an ex-coasty or something 4 stars
7/31/00 Stephen Booth Probably the second worst film this year 1 stars
7/31/00 Overflow Bitch Not great, not bad.... More emotion than most give credit for. Diane Lane was great. 4 stars
7/29/00 John Thorne Plenty of Action 4 stars
7/29/00 js Movie was a terrible bore. None of the characters has any depth (sic).Phony looking models 2 stars
7/29/00 Dave George Pretty fucking sweet 4 stars
7/26/00 Beau God bless the U.S. Coast Guard! 5 stars
7/26/00 Boy In The Designer Bubble It would've been better if Mark had filmed his scenes in his underwear. 3 stars
7/26/00 Melvin wonderful action drama 5 stars
7/23/00 Michael Stoner I liked the effects but Cloony and Walberg's acting didnt get my attention 3 stars
7/22/00 Megan This movie was absolutely unbelievable! 5 stars
7/20/00 malcolm kinda depressing, very good in spite of horrible picture quality at the drive in 4 stars
7/16/00 Well done for a complicated story; the p-js/sailboat rescue deserves its own movie 5 stars
7/12/00 Mantik0re Better than a swift kick in the ass. 4 stars
7/10/00 Andrew J. Good flick, but the subplot with the other boat and the Coast Guard was useless. 3 stars
7/10/00 Marc Special F/X are spectacular. Keeps you on the edge of your seat. 4 stars
7/09/00 Daria Great waves, pity about the characters 3 stars
7/08/00 Matt Anybody that gives away the ending of this one should be shot... 5 stars
7/07/00 Pierce Lanson White knuckle stuff, great characters, best special effects, REAL-I know!! 5 stars
7/07/00 TOM GREEN It sucked 1 stars
7/07/00 DatherFrawdad please god, let x-men be good.. or atleast have lots of boobies 3 stars
7/07/00 That Guy Supplemented good story, with lots of made up shit, some sorry acting. 4 stars
7/07/00 JC An exciting, edge of your seat film 5 stars
7/06/00 PJ great summer flick exciting as all hell 5 stars
7/06/00 koHawk Really feeling like you are along for the ride is great, unlike U571 4 stars
7/06/00 Alyssa Well crafted movie. You knew that they were going to die, but pulled for them anyway. 5 stars
7/04/00 *yeah baby* People's reviews here piss me off;peopleDOdie calmly when they drown shithead;great flick! 5 stars
7/04/00 William Bartlett good effects... some poor acting 4 stars
7/04/00 cosmic_j horrible dialogue, bad acting, poor story, and all around perfect piece of crap! 1 stars
7/04/00 John Walstad An intense experience 5 stars
7/03/00 Sean Horan Noisy movie--no theme, over dependent on CGI, and there's almost no dialogue. HBS this one. 2 stars
7/03/00 Diva Divine It was so good, it was awful! Only, I used to be a lifeguard and people don't drown calmly 4 stars
7/03/00 Captain Highcrime She's a hell of a boat, with a hell of a crew, with a hell of a lot of shitty dialogue. 3 stars
7/02/00 bornslippy A perfect boredom, very disappointing 2 stars
7/02/00 PJ This was an exciting good time summer movie, pure entertainment. 4 stars
7/02/00 "Persnickety" it was way too over hyped, but none the less it was a good flick 5 stars
7/02/00 Curt Great movie 5 stars
7/01/00 Politicsman Hollywood finally got the special effects disaster movie right! Great review Erik. 4 stars
7/01/00 Jokko Great specials. But Erik's overlooked the painfully shitty dialogue & lame characters. 2 stars
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  29-Jun-2000 (M)

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