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Awesome: 23.3%
Worth A Look37.5%
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9 reviews, 122 user ratings

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Perfect Storm, The
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by Andrew Howe

"Worse things happen at sea? Count on it."
4 stars

Many years ago my parents presented me with one of those record players designed to withstand the gentle attentions of casually-destructive toddlers. One of my favourite ditties was a version of "Life on the Ocean Wave", a song which conjured enchanting visions of sailing the high seas in search of murderous whales, uncharted islands and the odd golden fleece. A little unwelcome reality has seeped through the cracks in the intervening years, and childhood dreams have been replaced by seasickness and the lingering possibility of a watery grave (I suspect it may be a result of my cultural heritage: many Australians are descended from convicts, none of whom ever quite recovered from their three-month pleasure cruise to the colonies).

Hitting the screens with a refreshing absence of hype, The Perfect Storm is a testament to the wisdom of my land-bound ways. Concerned with a fishing boat's battle for survival amidst the "Storm of the Century" that battered the eastern seaboard of the United States in 1991, it's a small-scale disaster movie which reminds us, in emphatic terms, that Mother Nature is indeed a harsh and unforgiving mistress.

Since the film's success hinges upon whether the viewer can become emotionally invested in the fate of the imperilled crew, it's no surprise that the first hour is devoted to introducing the characters. While the 128 minute running time forces the scriptwriter to paint the protagonists in rather large brushstrokes, they are by no means shallow creations. Key moments define the man - a failed attempt at a barroom romance taken with good grace speaks volumes about one crewmember, while a brief meeting with an ex-wife tells you all you need to know about another. Clooney's status as a proud and driven man is telegraphed loud and clear, with the only sour note being a long-winded speech where he explains Why He Loves the Sea (it's not a bad speech, but it is lazy scriptwriting). Most importantly, all of the major players are reasonably likeable individuals, so by the time the Andrea Gail chugs out of the harbour there is little doubt in the viewer's mind that its occupants deserve to return.

On paper, some the casting decisions reeked of the usual attempts to bring in an audience on star-power alone. George Clooney could probably pull a crowd to a film about the life and times of Dan Quayle, while Mark Wahlberg's star continues to rise after his well-received performance in Three Kings. The fact that I possess little fondness for either actor notwithstanding, I am genuinely surprised to report that believably portraying grungy, unshaven fishermen is well within their capabilities, and the supporting cast is almost faultless. John C. Reilly (the cop in Magnolia) turns in another affecting performance, and he's aided and abetted by the likes of personal favourite William Fichtner (Strange Days) and an almost-unrecognisable Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio (boasting an unflattering hairstyle and negligible make-up, her performance is definitely an act of personal bravery). I would imagine that few A-list actors would have been interested in such unglamorous roles, and this is our gain since it lends a pleasing ring of truth to the portrayals.

Once the crew hit the high seas, the script builds the suspense by cutting between our heroes going about their business and the increasingly volatile weather patterns they've left in their wake. Interest is maintained by virtue of a fascinating insight into the art of deep-sea commercial fishing, a nail-biting set-piece occasioned by a mistimed lapse in concentration, and a healthy dose of conflict between two of the crewmembers (I don't believe for a second that an experienced captain would allow two people who obviously hate each other to form part of the same crew, but we can credit the notion that desperation caused him to cast aside his better judgement).

The turning point comes when the crew is presented with a simple choice - wait out the storm and lose their payload courtesy of a broken ice-machine, or try to make it through on a wing and a prayer. It wouldn't be much of a movie if they decided to cool their heels at the Flemish Cap, so criminal stupidity carries the day. I might add, however, that the film makes it abundantly clear that these are desperate men - they haven't had a solid payday in eons, and what's more they are clearly unaware of the magnitude of the brewing storm. I understand perfectly why they did what they did, and the fact that their plight is of their own making in no way lessens the impact of the scenes which follow.

The second half of the film divides its time between the Andrea Gail and the trials and tribulations of a yacht and a rescue team who are obviously out of their depth. This second storyline was obviously included to pad out the film, and while it's no less gripping than the plight of the fishing boat it suffers from a lack of build-up. We don't know these people, and while we still root for their survival by virtue of a simple identification with the situation it would have been considerably more powerful had the film devoted a little more time to introducing the characters.

All of which is minor carping, because about two-thirds of the way through the film I realised that I was experiencing something a movie hadn't elicited for as long as I can remember - genuine, gut-wrenching fear. Once the storm kicks in there is no respite from the madness, and the sheer destructive power of the malestrom is awe-inspiring. Believe me when I say that you must see this film on the big screen, for the force of the assault will be diluted by anything less. Lashing rain, waves the size of buildings, gale-force winds screaming around the vessels like demented banshees - it's a shattering experience, and the effects are, in their own way, as impressive as anything the technical wizards cooked up for the likes of The Matrix.

Of course, effects are not of themselves reason to praise a film. However, we've already determined that the characters are worthy of our attention, and this drags the viewer, willingly or not, into the heart of the action. There were moments when I felt that I was on the boat, the rising tide of hopelessness gnawing at my stomach, and for a simple film to evoke such powerful emotions is rare indeed. That it is so easy to become immersed in the proceedings is a testament to the skill of everyone involved, and it ensures the viewer leaves the cinema reeling and dazed, which is infinitely preferable to walking away untouched and unmoved.

When taken as a whole, The Perfect Storm is an impressive package. Featuring top-shelf acting, likeable characters, a tight and lean storyline, and mind-blowing special effects, it proves that a big budget is not necessarily the enemy of quality filmmaking, and that even a blockbuster can have a heart.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=1898&reviewer=193
originally posted: 10/21/00 22:09:31
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User Comments

9/12/17 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
1/14/07 Gloria Dornin ok, i am afraid of water, this made me hyper, but wow, scary that it was true 5 stars
1/14/07 David Pollastrini a bit slow in places but still good 4 stars
6/02/06 MP Bartley Simplistic and po-faced script mar an otherwise gripping thriller. 4 stars
12/30/05 Agent Sands Yawn. 3 stars
8/22/05 Quigley the CG is pretty amazing; that 100-foot wave was tight. not a real sea classic in the end. 4 stars
8/19/05 ES Why the hell didn't they head for Portugal and sell the fish there? = not recommended 3 stars
6/24/05 Mr Fluffy Very wet. Very windy. The Perfect Storm. Does what it says on the tin. 4 stars
6/21/05 Manu Ginobli Pahk da cah in hahbid yahd! 4 stars
6/07/05 Indrid Cold Fantastic dipiction of the fisherman's life. Too simplistic to be a classic though. 4 stars
11/08/04 Monster W. Kung The most annoying movie score ever? 3 stars
8/06/04 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
9/07/03 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
7/22/03 Flounder An excellent movie 5 stars
6/26/03 cochese I liked it, its not a masterpiece, but it worked. 4 stars
5/12/03 scottyrobotty fisherman trying to get a lot of money are heroes? we don't know what happened w/out radio 1 stars
4/21/03 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
3/21/03 Jack Sommersby Characters & story at service of f/x. Clooney and Lane are wasted. 2 stars
3/16/03 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
1/10/03 Desperado Terrible. How do they know what happened if nobody lived to tell it. Come on. Ending sucked 1 stars
11/14/02 Stevo Sometimes silly but not at all bad really. 4 stars
11/05/02 Charles Tatum Melodramatic bilge with cool effects 2 stars
9/18/02 Spike I was really spellbound. I would watch this again. 5 stars
7/04/02 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
12/09/01 Tam Forgettable and BORING! All the actors look as if they'd rather be somewhere else. 2 stars
11/30/01 Scottish Kilt predictable piece of pish, more glorious failure. 2 stars
11/22/01 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
9/16/01 Rebecca Wahlberg they should have trimmed mark's hair and beard and luckily they showed his pecks. 3 stars
8/18/01 Dr. Thompson Clooney and Wahberg are hollywoods most romantic couple 3 stars
8/17/01 Trish Thrilling and heartbreaking, with awesome special effects 4 stars
8/05/01 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
7/16/01 Elvisfan Not worth more than one viewing, if that..annoying script & actors dominate 1 stars
4/18/01 Tam A mediocre script and half-arsed acting undermine flawless special effects. 2 stars
4/04/01 Hawkeye Eight dollars worth of water, and it doesn't even look real. Characterization? Forget it. 1 stars
3/15/01 Terrie Smith Leave out the special effects and the film is very predictable. Rather disappointing. 3 stars
3/08/01 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
2/14/01 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
1/22/01 Bruce I loved this movie, I really thought it was excellent 5 stars
1/19/01 Ground Zero much better than Twister and Deep Impact 5 stars
1/16/01 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
1/12/01 Jake Exceeded my expectations, one of the best action movies of the year 5 stars
1/10/01 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
12/30/00 kevin THis movie was unrealistic and fake. The fish looked like ham bones. D 2 stars
12/20/00 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
11/28/00 Monday Morning Nice departure from action films that depend on guns, karate and car chases. 4 stars
11/22/00 Rachel Dershem This is a terrific movie. George was wonderful as Billy Tyne, all the actors did a great j 5 stars
11/18/00 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
10/23/00 JC23 An action movie that is actually good 5 stars
10/17/00 dan good until the stupid ending! 4 stars
9/30/00 Tom Budgen The best film i have ever seen, the effects are spell-binding, 10 out of 10 movie! 5 stars
9/21/00 White Rabbit Wow! What a ride!! 5 stars
9/10/00 samjuan66@yahoo.com the acting sucked good special efects 4 stars
8/23/00 David Seah There's no goodbye, there's only SUCK! 1 stars
8/08/00 Bueller Cut-aways to sub-sub-sub-plots were distracting, but otherwise, a good movie. Great score. 4 stars
8/08/00 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
8/04/00 Hulahula Pick a different flick! If you're an actor aren't you supposed to be able to act? 2 stars
7/31/00 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
7/28/00 John Thorne Plenty of Action 4 stars
7/28/00 js Movie was a terrible bore. None of the characters has any depth (sic).Phony looking models 2 stars
7/28/00 Dave George Pretty fucking sweet 4 stars
7/25/00 Beau God bless the U.S. Coast Guard! 5 stars
7/25/00 Boy In The Designer Bubble It would've been better if Mark had filmed his scenes in his underwear. 3 stars
7/25/00 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
7/21/00 Megan This movie was absolutely unbelievable! 5 stars
7/19/00 malcolm kinda depressing, very good in spite of horrible picture quality at the drive in 4 stars
7/15/00 baysailor@philliesmvp.com Well done for a complicated story; the p-js/sailboat rescue deserves its own movie 5 stars
7/11/00 Mantik0re Better than a swift kick in the ass. 4 stars
7/09/00 Andrew J. Good flick, but the subplot with the other boat and the Coast Guard was useless. 3 stars
7/09/00 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
7/06/00 DatherFrawdad please god, let x-men be good.. or atleast have lots of boobies 3 stars
7/06/00 That Guy Supplemented good story, with lots of made up shit, some sorry acting. 4 stars
7/06/00 JC An exciting, edge of your seat film 5 stars
7/05/00 PJ great summer flick exciting as all hell 5 stars
7/05/00 koHawk Really feeling like you are along for the ride is great, unlike U571 4 stars
7/05/00 Alyssa Well crafted movie. You knew that they were going to die, but pulled for them anyway. 5 stars
7/03/00 *yeah baby* People's reviews here piss me off;peopleDOdie calmly when they drown shithead;great flick! 5 stars
7/03/00 William Bartlett good effects... some poor acting 4 stars
7/03/00 cosmic_j horrible dialogue, bad acting, poor story, and all around perfect piece of crap! 1 stars
7/03/00 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
7/02/00 Diva Divine It was so good, it was awful! Only, I used to be a lifeguard and people don't drown calmly 4 stars
7/02/00 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
6/30/00 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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