Published Jun 01, 2000As a big fan of "Das Boot," I had big hopes for Wolfgang Peterson's newest oceanic offering , yet was wary after the schlocky "Air Force One" crashed with little more to offer than Harrison Ford's chin. "The Perfect Storm" is based on the book by Sebastian Junger, and tells the true story of a fishing crew that sails into one of the biggest storms in modern history. George Clooney is the seasoned, mildly grizzled, and decidedly down on his luck captain; Mark Wahlberg is the kinda cutesy young rookie with grit; Mary Mastrantonio as the successful fishing cap't, and John C. Rielly is cast as Mr. Sensitive. Smells fishy already, but it's all white meat baby, with super-solid acting and stellar camera work.
To what extent the story is all true, I'm not sure, but Peterson sells it well. We are allowed into the heart of a small but significant fishing town: Gloucester, Massachussetts, where fishing has claimed the lives of 10,000 men and women since 1623. It's October 1991, and the sea, she is full of fish, and full of weather. The film, with all its fish guts (there are plenty), dirty fingernails, scruffy beards, New England accents, loners and family men, CAT and John Deere caps, spit and missing teeth, there is an authenticity in the details that Peterson presents that I rarely see in films today. This is what slowly brings you along, makes you feel like you're really there; and it's necessary, because it takes 90 minutes before the storm even comes.
An hour and a half is a long time for an action movie to suspend any action, but this is just the kind of torturous tension that Peterson used in his U-boat classic to such great effect. We get into the quirky characters, their scars and loves lost. But when the storm does come the effects better be good right? Damn right. Industrial Light and Magic once again weave magic and the thrill ride is indeed a thrill. I forgot I was in a theatre, not on the sea... only to be reminded by the very triumphant music (if only it existed in life). There is the requisite action movie love story, between Diane Lane and Mark Wahlberg, and call me a softy, but I actually fell for it. "I gotta woman I can't stand to be more than two feet away from, then again, I love to fish." Yeah, life is a bit like that. Worthy if only to see how such an American story can be told in such an un-American way.