"It's big, wet and wild, an awesome display of cinematic skills coming together to
give audiences an almost tangible sense of what a giant storm is like, short of actually
being there. But that's not all of the film; Bill Witliff's screenplay and Wolfgang
Petersen's direction provide the human scale, with a solid sense of place and of the
people established at the beginning of the film. We meet the characters and the town
itself, we are seeped in the atmosphere of a fishing village - from its homes to its
rustic bar - which is used to the tragedies of the sea. (The film is dedicated to the
10,000 fishermen who have died in these waters since 1682.)
These essential early scenes
are par for the course in all 'disaster pictures' - and this film falls into that
category, even though it's based on fact. However, Peterson spends longer on this part of
the film than Hollywood usually allows, and the payoff comes later when the characters -
both on water and on land - are under stress.
We have learnt something of their emotional
lives, their specific motivations and their dreams. And the entire cast excels with
characterisations that seep into our consciousness with often small but meaningful
moments. Like the moment in the bar the night before the Andrea Gail sets off, when
lonesome Bugsy (John Hawkes) tries to chat up a lady customer. After a short and ambigous
conversation, she heads back home to her two small kids, and in a wideshot of the bar, we
see Bugsy exhale smoke slowly - a wordless picture that speaks a thousand words.
small subtleties provide dramatic fill for the engulfing power of the storm that occupies
the latter half of the film. And here, the combination of John Seale's cinematography and
ILM's digital storm-making take us into the heart of this heartless monster of weather
systems on the rampage. It will sweep you away, leaving your stomach muscles tensed and
your senses fatigued - and that's just sitting in a cinema seat and watching; and
listening, of course, to Horner's rich score.
The film sets out to document this perfect
storm and at the same time pay tribute to the people whose lives it affected, or indeed
took away. It succeeds in its intentions by being both thrilling and moving."
Andrew L. Urban
"You can taste the salt, as gigantic waves smash onto the small fishing vessel,
tossing it uncontrollably on a violent sea of peril. The strong, seasoned fishermen are
dumped unceremoniously as gushing torrents of water canon from side to side. This is the
dramatic setting for The Perfect Storm, Wolfgang Petersen's engulfing saga of an angry sea
beset by a meteorological monstrosity and the men that braved it. They're a breed of their
own – the men who trawl the oceans. Living on the edge of a wave in more ways than
one, these courageous men swing emotionally from fear to exhilaration, as mother nature's
pendulum oscillates the extremes.
In a moving tribute to the heroes of the sea, Petersen
captures not only the drama, conflict and madness, but the humanity of the people, their
values and aspirations. Personal differences on dry land are literally cast in the ocean,
as unequivocal loyalty and camaraderie become the only issues when confronted by those of
life and death. Junger's descriptive prose is brought vividly to life by a succinct
screenplay, extraordinary cinematography by our own John Seale, and an intensely
relentless score, emulating the ocean's troughs and crests.
The awesome special effects
are seamless – we are so engrossed in the characters, we have no idea where reality,
fantasy and technology meet. George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg head a top cast, capturing
the grit and manic determination magnificently. We genuinely care about all the
characters– from the dedicated men of the sea to those waiting impatiently at home.
The Perfect Storm is great cinematic storytelling. The intensity never abates and the 130
minute running time simply flies. Overwhelmingly moving, you'll hold your breath, grit
your teeth and sit on the edge of your seat throughout as the terror of the ocean rules.
If you want to be swept away, The Perfect Storm is the perfect choice."
"While the waves are pounding and the wind is howling The Perfect Storm is an
exciting, thrill-packed story of man against nature. The special effects team can collect
their Oscars straight away but away from the maritime mayhem this comes up short. Although
screenwriter Bill Whitliff and director Wolfgang Petersen spend plenty of time developing
character there is one huge flaw which leaves the film without the emotional core it
The character of ship's captain Billy Tyne unfortunately registers as an
irresponsible, gung-ho daredevil willing and even eager to put the lives of his crew at
risk. That may have been the case in real life but dramatically it leaves us with an
unlikeable central character who's intended to be heroic. Clooney and the rest of the
boys, especially Boogie Nights alumni Wahlberg and Reilly, do sterling work at the centre
of the storm and side-dramas involving a yacht crew in peril and Coast Guard rescue
operations are welcome additions.
As a big-screen spectacular the last 40 minutes of The
Perfect Storm is as good as it gets. There's just not quite enough before the showpiece to
make it memorable as a whole."