A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

The Perfect Storm

August 10, 2011

The Perfect Storm

I had no intention of buying this movie. I had no particular interest in watching it. When we were shopping for shark movies, however, it was part of an inexpensive two pack with Deep Blue Sea that we bought at the FYE at our local mall before they went out of business. So it ended up in the collection and so we’re bound to watch it.

The reason that I never bothered to watch this movie was that I knew how it was going to end. I suppose just about everybody who watched this knew how it was going to turn out, since it was a highly publicised true story about a swordfishing boat that was lost with all hands during a colossal storm off the New England coast. So why, I wondered to myself, would I allow myself to watch a movie that spends most of its time humanising these man, letting us become invested in them, their lives and their troubles, when I know from the start that they’re going to all die before the movie’s over?

I suppose that this could have been presented as a kind of disaster movie. I do enjoy watching those. Things like Earthquake or Twister which have forces of nature violently destroying stuff. I enjoy that kind of movie, even if I know that nobody’s going to make it out alive. But this movie isn’t that. Oh, sure, it has the wrath of Mother Nature as a series of events converge to drive “the perfect storm” against the Gloucester coast, but it’s presented much more as a human story about a small group of characters and the people waiting at home for them.

The first two thirds of the movie is entirely concerned with showing us these hearty fishermen and the way that their demanding work has made it hard for them to live normal lives. There’s George Clooney as Captain Billy Tyne, the skipper of the doomed Andrea Gail. He’s upset because he hasn’t been able to find the fish lately as well as he used to be, and is driven to go further out to sea than perhaps is wise with an approaching storm in an attempt to redeem his good name. There’s the young rookie Bobby Shatford played by Mark Wahlberg, who has fishing in his blood, but who has a young girlfriend waiting at home that he would be willing to leave the sea for, if only he could make enough on this one last run to help her live as he thinks she deserves. There’s Dale Murphy (the distinctive John C Reilly) whose wife has left him and who wants only to be able to spend time with his son. There’s Bugsy, the mechanic, and Alfred, the ethnic one, and Sully who only comes along because Captain Billy needs another hand, and who has some kind of bad blood with Dale.

We meet them and their families and learn all about their hopes and dreams and aspirations. Then we get a whole lot of manly male bonding stuff as they battle the elements and the capricious nature of their prey on the ocean. I’ve seen enough Deadliest Catch to be pretty familiar with the ebb and flow of this battle, with the fish biting some times and long periods of disappointment as well. (Indeed as I watched this I very much wanted to put the Deadliest Catch game into my X-Box and play it for a while. It’s now so much a game actually as a very complicated crab fishing simulator.) Then of course there’s the storm itself.

Naturally, since nobody on the Andrea Gale actually survived to tell the tale, virtually everything that happens in this movie is pure fiction. The character names are actual people,and it’s likely that much of what we see about their relationships is drawn from fact, but everything that happens on their final voyage is pure speculation. Dale being pulled overboard by a hook through his hand. The ice machine crapping out. The big action set-piece where one of the anchors they’re using to keep the ship stable as they battle giant waves comes loose and starts smashing up the boat. All of that is just there for dramatic effect. he only thing that is actually known is that the boat went out too far and didn’t make it back.

I have no doubt that all the disasters depicted are actual real things that happen on swordfishing boats. I’ll admit that although I’ve watched most of the first three seasons of Deadliest Catch I’ve never watched Swords, which is the same show but with boats like the Andrea Gale hunting swordfish off the New England coast. Still, there’s the feel of truth to much of this – but that didn’t really draw me into the movie. Instead it made me want to watch Swords so I could see actual people dealing with these actual problems. I think I would have enjoyed that more than the Hollywood version.

Another problem this movie has is that it tries to introduce a whole host of other characters that are not really related to the Andrea Gale. I can understand putting the television meteorologist in who has to do all the exposition about how so many factors are coming together to result in this disastrous storm. But then there’s a family that sails into the hurricane and has to be rescued by a coast guard helicopter (the same chopper that goes down later trying to reach the Andrea Gale.) They distract from the main story of the film and feel like padding, which is too bad because I love seeing Karen Allen getting work. An awful lot of time is spent following the crew of the coast guard cutter and helicopter that also feels like a distraction. There’s even a lengthy refueling scene which will remind any MST3K fan of Starfighters and it’s interminable refueling montages.

I spent a whole lot of this movie wishing I was watching something else. I suppose that’s the main problem I have with it. It made me want to watch Swords or Deadliest Catch. It made me want to see other “nature attacks” style disaster movies. All the wonderful and recognisable actors in the cast made me want to stop this and watch other movies we own starring those same people that I enjoyed more. I’ll admit to a tear or two at the end when the movie gets super manipulative and tries its damnedest make you break down sobbing, but I mostly resented the movie for its manipulative ways by then. About the only good thing I can say about the film is that it has some pretty good special effects (although some of the digital waves are not completely convincing) and that I was quite relieved that George Clooney didn’t attempt to do an authentic Gloucester accent, which would have been painful. I would have spent the whole movie thinking “These people want to see a lobster.”

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August 10, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , ,

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