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Based on a true story, the time in 1991 and the swordfishing boat “Andrea Gail” had returned to port in Gloucester, Massachusetts with a less than desired catch. Captain Billy Tyne (George Clooney) wants to attempt one more run before the fishing season ends. Tyne and his five crewmen – including relative newcomer Bobby Shatford (Mark Wahlberg) – will head into the tricky conditions despite attempts by loved ones to persuade them not to. Big money is as stake for future prosperity.
This is the basis for the screen adaptation of Sebastian Jungen’s best selling non-fiction book about two subjects: weather and fishing. The waters of Georges Banks, approximately 150 miles east of Gloucester, have been renowned for its wealth of cod and swordfish, but it had been a dangerous place for boats. Unusual weather patterns generated sudden storms. By 1991 the fish population had declined. Billy Tyne and his men are determined to avenge recent disappointments and set off for another sail. Shatford has a new life to build with his girlfriend Christina Cotter (Diane Lane) and fishing is the only job he knows that will secure their lives together. Against her wishes, he sets off. Other seasoned campaigners join Tyne and Shatford, including “Murph” (John C Reilly), who is trying to support his estranged wife and child.
Director Wolfgang Petersen sets the scene at Crow’s Nest, a dockside bar where the seamen and families got to get their drinking and sexual satisfaction after a spell at sea. We meet the characters of these courageous men amongst the backdrop of family and financial needs. Hovering beside Billy Tyne is fellow Captain Linda Greenlaw (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio), a friendly fishing rival who wouldn’t mind becoming even friendlier with Billy. The Andrea Gail’s perilous journey is shown effectively as the tension mounts. The initial catches prove to be lack-lustre, there is dissension on board, and Billy’s anxiety takes them into waters much further out than mapped. Little do the fishermen know that a hurricane heads north from Bermuda to collide with another storm and a cold front. With macho survival instinct and a sense of professionalism, Billy aims to beat the oncoming storm. Without any radio warnings, will he and his team win out?
There are some marvellous action sequences leading up to the thrillingly staged conclusion, including one in which “Murph”, his hand impaled by a hook on a line, is tossed overboard and dragged underwater behind the Andrea Gail. There is a genuine suspense and Petersen provides terrific visual effects, taking into consideration the difficult exercise of animating the use of water. James Horner’s powerful score is distinguished while Australian cinematographer John Seale again excels. This is George Clooney’s big moment. He puts in a terrific performance and he commands a strong presence. Wahlberg and Reilly again combine well. In general, the cast does a fine job. “The Perfect Storm” is a well-conveyed story with gripping drama, and it deals well with the sea-loving characters in the tense circumstances.