Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Perfect Storm (movie)

Finally saw the movie on cable the other night. I'd read the book, so I knew how it was going to come out. The shots of Gloucester Harbor and the draggers coming in and out were good. I've spent time in Gloucester, and it looked right on. The closeups of the crew getting ready to go to sea, saying goodbye to girlfriends, hanging out in waterfront dives were appealing as well. I watched it to the end.
It was ultimately unsatisfying as a movie. The Andrea Gail sinks with all hands in the last reel of the movie. We knew that was going to happen. Efforts of the crew to keep her afloat were like cliff hangers, you see them battling loose gear, mountainous waves, and failed equipment. But you know all this heroism isn't gonna save them.
The movie veered between blaming the sinking on a greedy owner, or a skipper's fanatical quest of the great white swordfish, or a broken ice machine, and portraying the storm as an act of God, against which no man can resist. In short, I turned off the TV at the end of the movie wondering what was the meaning of it all.
The skipper is portrayed as a likable guy, good seaman, who is willing to run some serious risks to bring back a full load of swordfish. The key scene has the Andrea Gail far out in the Atlantic, with fish holds full, and the ice machine broken. They know the weather is going bad. They could stay offshore out of the worst of the weather for a couple of days before heading in. But, the ice would melt, the fish would spoil and the voyage would be a bust. They decide to risk it, head back to Gloucester thru the teeth of the hurricane. The whole crew concur, they all want their share of the poceeds of the voyage. Watching the movie, it seems like a reasonable decision at the time. The boat is seaworthy, the crew is all old pros from Goucester, the saltiest fishing port in North America.
Somehow the movie fails to convince me that they die from folly, or from lack of seamanship or guts. Nor does it make it clear that they perish as an act of God. The owner gets some bad press, he is a nasty cheapskate, but he isn't shown skimping on boat maintenance or supplies. A Coast Guard rescue helicopter fails to accomplish an air-to-air refueling in atrocious weather, runs out of fuel, and crashes at sea before it can get out to help the Andrea Gale.
So, good photography, decent acting, but overall a so-so movie.

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