The Perfect Storm begins with a few fisherman coming back into town after a (presumably) long time out on the sea. It hasn’t been a good season for this boat, and the captain, Bobby (George Clooney), is getting teased about it. After spending one night in the town, he decides that in a couple of days, he will take his crew back out for one last journey before it gets too cold. Apparently, he forgot to check the weather.
They depart after about thirty minutes into the film. In the half hour leading up to this, we learn a bit about some of the crew members. Bobby (Mark Wahlberg) has a girlfriend (Diane Lane) and a mother (Janet Wright), Murph (John C. Reilly) has an ex-wife and a son, Bugsy (John Hawkes) recently met a woman when they were in-town, and Sully (William Fichtner) came aboard just because it seemed like it would be fun at the time. That’s about as deep as these characters get, but at least those thirty minutes weren’t wasted on something stupid like pointless dialogue that won’t come into play later. Oh wait, that is what happened.
I jest. It does help us care a little bit about these people, but does a better job of caring about the families stuck on land. Maybe that was the point? We do cut between them and the crew members once things start to go wrong. Although it seemed to me as if we’re supposed to care for the men when their lives are in peril. I failed to be able to. They made stupid decisions and none of them were particularly likable in the first place.
Oh, and things definitely do go wrong. See, we sometimes cut to a meteorologist who decides to tell us that a couple of tropical storms/hurricanes are about to collide, just off the coast of some place. It doesn’t matter. If you really care, this is based on a true story, and you can look it up for yourself. The point is, the ship is going to be headed directly into the place where these storms are going to collide.
A great deal of the film focuses on how the crew mates are going to attempt to survive this storm. They catch a ton of fish right before they’re about to hit the storm, and they face a decision: Push through the storm, or go back. The fish will spoil if they decide to not go through it, and because making money is more important than their well-being, they make the wrong, and stupid, decision. As a result, we get somewhere around forty minutes of torrential downpour, waves crashing into their fishing boat, more rain, and strong winds.
If I had cared about these people, it’s possible that these scenes would have thrilled me. Some of them, just as standalone action scenes, were sufficient in working as suck. For any emotional resonance, though, there needed to be something else. I needed to care, and the simple fact of the matter is that I didn’t. If you somehow already cared about the 1991 storm, maybe this will be the film for you. It wasn’t for me, though.
Some of these “suspenseful” scenes didn’t work for one simple reason: I couldn’t see what was going on. With the gale-force winds, pounding rain and crashing waves, I sometimes wasn’t able to tell what was happening. This wasn’t a problem for too long, but there were scenes when this became an issue. This didn’t help my inability to care. This only became worse as the storm intensified and the waves became crashing through the windows of the ship, making it difficult to see even when the characters were inside.
There were also quite a few pointless scenes earlier on in the film. The first thirty minutes notwithstanding, there are a few other parts of the film that had me questioning what the point of their inclusion was. For example, Bobby gets attacked by a shark at one point. That never gets revisited or referenced later on. Murph falls overboard as well, but that doesn’t factor in either. There’s also a few scenes of a small dingy of a ship, and some more involving a rescue helicopter, full of characters that the film doesn’t even attempt to get us to care about.
What worse is that all of this could have been excluded, and it would have only improved the film. Nobody is really sure what happened during most of the time these men were out at sea, so there’s no reason to bog us down with these types of scenes. It’s not like anyone could claim that they were required to tell the story properly. I wager they played a larger role in the novel The Perfect Storm is based on, but after the role was largely trimmed for the film, they were kept in just to please fans of the novel.
At least the actors were okay. At the very least, most of them made me believe that they could be fishermen. There’s a strong supporting cast, and they actually help bring us in more than the leads do. John C. Reilly was particularly strong, which surprised me. And just on a personal level, I was happy to see Corner Gas star Janet Wright in a somewhat important role.
The Perfect Storm failed to keep me emotionally infested. If you already care about the 1991 storm, you might have a good time. I didn’t care about the crew, and I only marginally cared about the families of the crew. This is a film filled with a bunch of pointless scenes, some of which I couldn’t even discern what was happening during them. It has competent actors, but they didn’t save this film from being a waste of my time.