The movie simply pulls us in and holds us there, in one degree of horror or another, for more than two hours.

THE PERFECT STORM

A Illusion review by Joan Ellis.


The star of The Perfect Storm is the explosion of converging storms off the New England coast in 1991. The credit for the terror we feel goes to Industrial Light and Magic, George Lucas's special-effects studio, and to Director Wolfgang Petersen. It is entirely fitting that the characters are underdeveloped. There is no room for character nuance in this story of the overwhelming power of wind and water.

It matters not a whit that most in the audience know the outcome of Sebastian Junger's book; it matters even less that we know we are watching computer-generated waves. The movie simply pulls us in and holds us there, in one degree of horror or another, for more than two hours.

We meet the crew of the Andrea Gail at The Crow's Nest in Gloucester, Massachusetts, where families and lovers alternately welcome their fishermen home and stand vigil when they are overdue. Captain Billy Tyne (George Clooney), home again with a skimpy catch, will wait just two days before heading out again to break his losing streak. He begins to move emotionally closer to Linda Greenlaw (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio), another skipper, and she responds. Bobby (Mark Wahlberg) and Christina (Diane Lane) are young lovers with financial problems and romantic dreams. We meet them, but only slightly. This is a movie that wants to get back to the ocean.

When the Grand Banks prove barren, Billy decides to head for Flemish Cap, a place that is forbidding in its danger, distance, and weather, but rich in swordfish. The crew reluctantly votes to follow Billy, who is driven by the pressure of a losing streak and an undeniable inner recklessness. Their dreams are on the line, and they need money. In a maelstrom of blood, fish, and laughter at Flemish Cap, the crew celebrates its abundant catch-60,000 pounds of swordfish. The precariousness of their trade screams out: gaffs, winches, gears, heavy equipment. Gloucester is a town that has lost 10,000 men to the sea since 1623.

It's decision time for skipper Billy: he can stay put and avoid the storm that has been described by fax and radio, or he can head home through the worst of it. The ice machine has broken, and the fish will rot. We're Gloucestermen, let's go.

The obvious flaws in this movie, and they are many, barely penetrate our emotional turmoil. A runaway score intrudes on the sufficiently grim natural noise of disaster. The TV weatherman, a study in melodrama, says things like, "Oh my God, it's happening!" George Clooney is convincing as Skipper Billy Tyne even though he sounds nothing like a New Englander, but since people who try that accent usually fail, we can admire his decision to be himself.

Just ignore the peripheral nuisances and credit the filmmakers with making a handful of actors look perfectly insignificant against the force of the ocean. The sight of a yellow slicker in a 90-foot wave silences us all.


Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 497
Studio : Warner Bros.
Rating : PG-13
Running time : 2h30m


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