In October 1991, a confluence of weather conditions combined to form a killer storm in the North Atlantic. Caught in the storm was the sword-fishing boat Andrea Gail. Magnificent foreshadowing and anticipation fill this true-life drama while minute details of the fishing boats, their gear and the weather are juxtaposed with the sea adventure.Written by
Erwin van Moll <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The Perfect Storm: Billy Tyne is a swordboat captain who's hit a patch of bad luck - while his colleagues have returned to port nearly bursting at the seams with fish, his hold is nearly empty. Convinced that it is his turn to score the big haul, Tyne convinces his crew to go on one last run before the end of the season and heads for the North Atlantic. He never figured Mother Nature into his plans.
I remember reading about the Andrea Gail soon after "The Storm of the Century" hit the eastern seaboard. It was only a matter of time before someone tried to bring this story to the big screen. Thankfully, it was Wolfgang Petersen who did so - here he does for fishing what he did for submarine warfare in "Das Boot" - puts the viewer in the midst of the action and scares the hell out of them.
I can say without exaggeration that I have never experienced a movie as stressful as this one (the friend I brought to the premiere was literally ill). The movie starts out slowly and deliberately, gradually setting the stage for what is about to come. Petersen utilizes several subplots to build the suspense: initially he focuses on the disappointment of the crew as they repeatedly fail to hit the motherlode. Masterfully intercut with this are scenes documenting an idyllic sailing trip that turns ugly, and the Coast Guard attempts to rescue them. Consequently, the tension, like the storm, continues to build to a crescendo, and never wanes. The movie also feels real.
I have been in twenty-foot seas once in my life, and that was more than enough for me (it was one of the few times I ever contemplated my own mortality). Watching this movie brought it all back: the waves looked so real that it is often difficult to differentiate between the CGI and the real thing. Also, I could feel the waves as they pounded relentlessly against the boat (the theatre I saw this in had a great sound system) and was deafened by the shrieking wind. The experience, is, for lack of a better word, ferocious - I kept everything to disintegrate in the onslaught. However, special effects alone do not adequately convey the appropriate sense of danger.
Many of the water scenes were actually shot in heavy seas - they managed to film in the tail end of a hurricane - adding to the realism (several members of the crew were regularly feeding the fish...). The actors faced additional dangers - Mark Wahlberg came perilously close to drowning, not once but twice, and was injured by one of the animatronic creatures. Anyone expecting Clooney or Wahlberg to be glamorous will be sorely disappointed - they are earthy, and scraggly. But more importantly, their performances ring true. Indeed, all of the main characters deliver subtle, believable performances.
I have never given a strong endorsement with an equally strong caveat - you must see this movie, but only if you can handle stress. And yes I am serious on both counts.
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