The Perfect Storm
The Perfect Storm takes its title from Sebastian Junger's best-selling book of the same name, an account of an unprecedented 1991 superstorm and its effect on a small Massachusetts fishing ship. It may as well have taken its title from its primary reason for existing: the fact that special-effects technology allows for a thorough re-creation of such events. This it does, at length and to varying degrees of impressiveness, while doing little else. Despite every indication—a terrific cast, an unusual subject, and a director who has already made possibly the greatest seagoing movie in history—that it might be a big summer movie of substance, Storm points itself almost solely toward this goal, as surely as a Godzilla movie heads toward the monster's rampage through the streets of Tokyo. George Clooney stars as a down-on-his-luck fishing captain looking to bring back one big score before winter. Joining him are Mark Wahlberg, John C. Reilly, William Fichtner, and others, each of whom has one major scene to establish his character before being reduced to another pained face thrown against an angry sea. Director Wolfgang Petersen creates a cross between a '70s disaster movie and one of Howard Hawks' films of colleagues working together at a dangerous profession, but he leans far too heavily on the former, perhaps mistaking the title for a description of content a la Earthquake, Meteor, or Volcano. Oddly, the storm itself, even at moments when the CGI effects don't look transparent, proves The Perfect Storm's least interesting facet: The details of modern fishing and the characters' lives, each dispensed all too sparingly, are much more compelling. But every time they prove too distracting, Petersen whips attention back to the storm itself, throwing in literal boatloads of superfluous characters for the sole purpose of tossing them back and forth on the waves to the accompaniment of James Horner's overzealous score. The cast takes buckets of water to the face while trying its best against odds as overwhelming as those its characters face, managing only to salvage a passable bit of spectacle from what could have been a far more bountiful haul.