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Film / The Perfect Storm

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The Perfect Storm is a 2000 Disaster Movie, directed by Wolfgang Petersen and adapted from the nonfiction book of the same name by Sebastian Junger, which dramatizes the "Perfect Storm" that hit the Atlantic coast of North America in October 1991, and speculates on the fate of the crew of the Andrea Gail, a fishing boat based out of Gloucester, Massachusetts, that was lost in the tempest. It stars George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, William Fichtner, John C. Reilly, Allen Payne, John Hawkes, Diane Lane, Michael Ironside, Karen Allen, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, and Cherry Jones.

In September 1991, the Andrea Gail returns to port with a poor catch, leading Capt. Billy Tyne to take the boat out for one final fishing run, heading out past their usual fishing grounds. However, when their ice machine breaks, they must hurry back to shore in order to preserve their catch, but they discover that between them and safe harbor lurks a confluence of two weather fronts and a hurricane, creating the eponymous Perfect Storm. Caught in the teeth of the storm, the crew is forced to fight for their lives and for their only chance to get home...


Another vessel, the private yacht Mistral, gets caught in Hurricane Grace and a helicopter runs out of fuel looking for the Andrea Gail, which leads to a harrowing rescue by the Coast Guard.

The Perfect Storm contains examples of:

  • Artistic License – History: According to The New York Times, the portrayal of Leonard Ray and the Satori's voyage (Mistral in the movie) is borderline character assassination.
  • Artistic License – Physics: When the boat goes up the nearly 90 degree wall of water that eventually topples it, they still have no problem standing upright.
  • The Cameo: Christopher McDonald plays Todd Gross, the meteorologist at WHDH-TV in Boston who predicted the storm.
  • Casanova Wannabe / Lovable Sex Maniac: Bugsy is a skirt-chasing horndog eager to get laid before going out to sea again at the beginning of the film. He does at least meet a woman who sees him off when he goes.
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  • Cue the Sun: See Hope Spot
  • Downer Ending: See Trailers Always Spoil.
  • Emergency Refuelling: A failed one forces the rescue helicopter to ditch at sea.
  • Fight to Survive: After they are caught in the perfect storm. A Downer Ending, but not for lack of trying.
  • The Film of the Book
  • Foregone Conclusion
  • Foreshadowing: The first scene of the movie shows the wall listing the fisherman lost at sea throughout the centuries. As well, one of the crew members mentions that he's "getting a bad feeling", as several bad things have happened since they set out that seem to be a harbinger of doom.
  • Get It Over With: The captain voluntarily sinks with the ship, knowing there is no hope of rescue. Only the first mate makes it to the surface — and the last view of him is surrounded by 70+ foot swells in hurricane force winds, saying his good-byes to his loved ones.
  • Giant Wall of Watery Doom: The rogue wave that ultimately capsizes the boat.
    • The real-life Perfect Storm generated waves recorded at up to 101 feet high. It may never be known if the Andrea Gail (which was only 72 feet long) ever actually encountered any of these monsters, but if she did such a wave would have been big enough to pitch-pole and sink the boat.
  • Hope Spot: The brief glimpse of the sun (actually the eye of the storm) they get right before things go downhill. They get another one when the skipper manages to get the boat around to run with the weather. For a moment, the seas are calmer — then the rogue wave appears, which the boat nearly gets over before capsizing.
  • Impaled Palm: One character gets his hand caught on one of a line of hooks running out to sea and gets dragged out with it.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Sully. Murph to a lesser extent.
  • Kill 'Em All: Nobody survives that fateful boating trip.
  • Never Found the Body: All that was ever found of the Andrea Gail were a handful of oil drums.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: George Clooney, to his credit, doesn't attempt a Massachusetts accent. Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, however, does an accent that is guaranteed to make viewers from Massachusetts cringe. Mark Wahlberg, a Massachusetts native, speaks with his natural accent.
  • Shown Their Work: A goodly portion of the original book details the history and mechanics of Gloucester's fishing industry. Since we don't know exactly what happened in the storm, giving the context and inferring the details from that is the next best thing.
    • The most likely hypothesis from the book was that the boat was pitch-poled, capsized end over end, and the movie reflects that, with the Andrea Gail hitting a monstrous rogue wave, pitch-poling, and sinking.
  • Spinoff: The book was originally supposed to be a single chapter in a book about dangerous jobs, but as the book's author, Sebastian Junger, learned more about the context of the disaster, the narrative took on a life of its own and was turned into a full-size book.
    • Linda Greenlaw, the only female captain in the American swordfishing fleet and one of the key players in the narrative of both the book and the movie versions of The Perfect Stormnote , wrote a Spiritual Successor of a book called The Hungry Ocean, using as its plot a fishing trip that occurred several years after the events in The Perfect Storm, as a way to show what a typical commercial fishing voyage would look like. She has since gone on to a career as a writer, with several more books having already been published.
  • Testosterone Poisoning: The crew engages in nearly every bout of masculinity short of taking a tape measure to the biceps. So much so — and so much of the "reconstructed" story — that several next-of-kin sued over the portrayals (they lost).
  • Title Drop: "What if Hurricane Grace runs smack into it? Add to the scenario this baby off Sable Island, scrounging for energy. She'll start feeding off both the Canadian cold front... and Hurricane Grace. You could be a meteorologist all your life... and never see something like this. It would be a disaster of epic proportions. It would be... the perfect storm."
  • Too Dumb to Live: The crew of the Andrea Gail, going straight through a storm they knew was bad to get home with little regard to actually surviving the trip. This is somewhat justified; Tyne was under intense pressure from the owner of the boat to bring in a catch, and at the time they made their decision, they had no idea just how severe the weather was going to get. They also never wore lifejackets on board, until it was too late for them to do any good anyway.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: Half the trailers (and most of the posters) showed a huge rogue wave about to eat the boat. Though technically, none of them showed that the boat was capsized by the wave.
    • Subverted in the case of reviewers, who generally refrained from giving away the ending. One article even stated that "for their own reasons, none of the Andrea Gail's original crew have offered comment" on the film's accuracy.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Enforced. The events of the voyage and sinking are unknown, due to none of the crew surviving.


Example of: