With The Finest Hours (2016) coming to DVD on Tuesday, it seemed a good time to take a look back at another “disaster at sea” pic, namely The Perfect Storm. Having never seen this particular blockbuster, we took a chance when it popped up on NetFlix®. Would this Clooney/Wahlberg starrer be worth our time, or should we have just waited for the next disaster movie to come along?
George Clooney leads a cast of recognizable names in The Perfect Storm. Unfortunately, he seems rather lost and aloof for most of the film, only showing his acting chops when the waves get choppy. Sadly, he’s not alone, as most of the rest of the cast is also largely wasted until the sea rears up. Wahlberg and Diane Lane get to canoodle for a moment or two, John C. Reilly gets to experience a brief glimpse of fatherhood, and the awkward John Hawkes gets a brief glimmer of romance. Unfortunately, while each sequence is touching in it’s own way, it never really endears the viewer to these characters, and thus these sequences are largely wasted. Even Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, still fighting to get back to her fame in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991), is completely wasted as the captain of another fishing boat,
But, once the Andrea Gail is under way again, the film consolidates, somewhat (more on that in a minute), to the 5-man crew and their efforts to fight Mother Nature and bring home their catch. Here, those crewmembers get to shine for a moment or two. Sadly, even these moments are nearly drowned in cliches, and the actors try their best to tug on a heartstring or two, without much luck.
Unfortunately, if director Petersen had kept his focus on the Andrea Gail, those actors would have stood more of a chance. Instead, the director keeps his focus on the sea in The Perfect Storm, and the film cuts away to sequences of a sailboat caught in the storm (wasting the talents of Cherry Jones, Karen Allen and Bob Gunton), then leads from that to the plight of a US Coast Guard chopper in distress after they fail to refuel. While each of these subplots may have been interesting by themselves, they do nothing for the film but pull the camera away from where it should be focused. Instead of heightening the drama, the film ends up leaving the viewer with the impression that all three storylines are shortchanged because of it.
Of course, the true star of The Perfect Storm is the sea itself. Whether it’s lapping gently against the coastal town of Gloucester, or raging into mile-high waves that threaten to overtake anything and everything in their path, the ocean itself steals the scenes each and every time. No matter what it’s doing, that sea – whether it be CGI or not – is a sight to behold – and a monster that no man can hope to best.
Unlike recent remake Poseidon (2006) (among others), The Perfect Storm forgets that creating characters that viewers are invested in is a huge part of creating a disaster film. Instead, viewers are treated to characters that have mostly been shortchanged or grouped into tired cliches before they are thrust into the forefront. Sadly, this means most of their efforts on board, while tireless and heroic, aren’t as moving as the filmmaker’s obviously were yearning for.
Stick around through the rather dull beginning, and The Perfect Storm will take you on a wild ride through the surging seas. But, like a ride at an amusement park, the thrills will quickly fade from memory – and a true story like this deserves better than that.