Nine years after the Andrea Gail and her crew of six were annihilated in the North Atlantic by an astonishingly violent convergence of weather systems that came to be known as "the hundred-year storm," and three years after the fate of the Gloucester swordfishing boat's final voyage was memorialized in the pages of Sebastian Junger's book The Perfect Storm, Captain Billy Tyne and his men will once again battle the tempest from hell, this time in a $120 million special-effects-laden Warner Bros. film directed by Wolfgang Petersen and starring George Clooney. Whether The Perfect Storm has what it takes to become this summer's blockbuster remains to be seen—Petersen is still racing to finish editing the picture before its June 30 release—but early glimpses of the wrenching performances and harrowing storm
sequences live up to the director's pitchspeak billing of the film as "On the Waterfront meets Twister."
Given the A-list talent involved, readers of the book (and of Outside, where a feature adapted from an early draft of The Perfect Storm ran in 1994) have reason to hope that the movie will offer more than Hollywood pyrotechnics. Petersen (Das Boot, In the Line of Fire) knows how to direct brisk action thrillers combining intelligence and a bracing touch of perverse humor. His cinematographer is John Seale, an Australian whose most recent films were The English Patient and The Talented Mr. Ripley. The screenplay is by William D. Wittliff (among his credits are The Black Stallion and the 1989 TV miniseries Lonesome Dove) and Bo Goldman (One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Shoot the Moon). Clooney and Mark Wahlberg, who were terrific together in last year's Three Kings, head up a brilliant cast of actors including John C. Reilly, Diane Lane, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, and Cherry Jones. And the advance word is that Industrial Light and Magic's digital effects impart the hurricane's full lethal brutality with an unprecedented realism.
Something more heartfelt than the mere desire to craft a box-office hit seems to have driven everyone involved in the making of The Perfect Storm. In part this commitment was a response to the power of Junger's book, but there was also an awareness that the disaster that befell the Andrea Gail was not a distant historical tragedy. Real men died, devastating real families and loved ones in a community already devastated by the collapse of North Atlantic fisheries. The adventure being re-created is a true one, and as Clooney puts it, "We didn't want to do it an injustice."