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Perfect Storm, The (2000, George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg)

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Wolfgang Petersen likes water. The German helmer made one of the best sea pictures ever – Das Boot – and returns to the ocean for this spectacular true-life drama.

October 1991, The Andrea Gail returns to port in Gloucester, Massachusetts with a meagre catch, leading skipper Billy Tyne (George Clooney) to suggest turning back toward the North Atlantic in search of richer waters.

One crewman quits, so Tyne enlists his friend Sully (William Fichtner) to join Bobby (Mark Wahlberg), Murph (John C. Reilly), Bugsy (John Hawkes) and Alfred (Allen Payne). At their new destination their prospects are bleak, so the ship is turned toward the Flemish Cap instead, and the crew begin to bicker and succumb to superstition.

The captain tries to keep order, ignorant of what lays ahead – the marriage of two hostile weather fronts with a hurricane, producing something beyond common endurance and human comprehension: the perfect storm…

Bringing the Andrea Gail back to life required an inevitably epic production, with the soundstage first used for PT-109 brought back into service. Cast and crew were then subjected to six months of submersion, with Clooney pushed to the point of quitting only to be persuaded back by Wahlberg, a reluctant arbitrator laid low by unrelenting seasickness.

External scenes were shot in the real Gloucester, with Petersen vowing not to sensationalise events. In return he got 700 locals to appear in a key church scene where Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio’s eulogy is delivered with eerie accuracy.

Fidelity is not the film’s only strength, as it delivers an awesome visual journey matched by performances that overcome a weak and flaccid script to evoke something of the courage and craziness of the characters’ real-life counterparts.

production details
USA | 130 minutes | 2000

Director: Wolfgang Petersen
Writer: William D. Wittliff (from the book by Sebastian Junger)

cast
Diane Lane as Christina ” Chris ” Cotter
Bob Gunton as Alexander McAnally III
Dash Mihok as Sgt. Jeremy Mitchell
John Hawkes as Mike ‘Bugsy’ Moran
Merle Kennedy as Debra Murphy
George Clooney as Capt. Billy Tyne
Cherry Jones as Edie Bailey
Josh Hopkins as Capt. Darryl Ennis
Karen Allen as Melissa Brown
Mark Wahlberg as Bobby Shatford
John C. Reilly as Dale ” Murp ” Murphy
William Fichtner as David ” Sully ” Sullivan
Allen Payne as Alfred Pierre
Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio as Linda Greenlaw
Christopher McDonald as Todd Gross
Michael Ironside as Bob Brown
Rusty Schwimmer as Irene ‘Big Red’ Johnson
Janet Wright as Ethel Shatford
Todd Kimsey as Lt. Rob Pettit
Chris Palermo as Flight Engineer Borgers
Wiley M. Pickett as Sgt. Millard Jones
Hayden Tank as Dale Murphy, Jr.
Jennifer Sommerfeld as Alfred Pierre’s Girlfriend
Joseph D. Reitman as Douglas Kosco
Sandy Ward as Quentin – The Old Timer
Melissa Samuels as Pam – Todd Gross’ Assistant
Steven Barr as Commander Brudnicki
Billy Mayo as C-130 Pilot