Look beyond the eye-popping, bone-chilling ocean-in-hurricane footage and the film version of "The Perfect Storm" slumbers in dead calm.
The movie's central feature is the digitally enhanced "perfect storm," inspired by the freaky-deaky weather pattern known as the Great Halloween Nor'Easter that devastated much of the New England coastline in 1991.
Based on the best-selling book by Sebastian Junger, "The Perfect Storm" tells the story of the determined sword-fishing crew of the Andrea Gail and their death-defying at-sea confrontation with the "storm of the century."
More than anything, this is a movie where the wild foreboding of nature-out-of-control steals the show, throwing in the human equation to distinguish it from documentary.
George Clooney stars as fisher boat Captain Billy Tyne, who decides to take his boat and crew, based in Gloucester, Mass., out to sea for one more try at a profitable swordfish haul before season's end.
Clooney brings his typical chisel-faced and bearded qualities to the role -- creating a convincing character willing to test his boat and men against common sense rules of the sea.
The movie reunites Clooney with "The Three Kings" sidekick Mark Wahlberg, who plays Andrea Gail crewman Bobby Shatford, a young man ready to give up his fishing career for true love in the form of girlfriend Christina (Diane Lane).
"I've got a bad feeling about this one," she says, as Bobby departs on what he says will be "my last trip" before marital bliss on shore.
Directed by Wolfgang Petersen, best known for sea adventure "Das Boot," the "Storm" fails to build audience empathy with the characters, covering the basics with ankle-deep scenes in preparation for the big blowout later.
In the first hour, the audience gets a pretty good idea of what it's like to catch and gut giant swordfish and how three extraordinary weather patterns converged off the Atlantic coast to produce (in weather forecaster jargon) "the perfect storm."
It catches Clooney and his crew in dangerous waters a long way from homeport, with a 60,000-pound catch worth delivering to market, despite the hurricane risk along the way.
As the storm churns up the Atlantic, the movie flips to at-sea rescue operations by a Coast Guard helicopter crew, which eventually ends up in the broiling froth as well, as it searches for the Andrea Gail.
The scenes unfold like an exhilarating instructional on sea rescue operations, adding to the documentary effects of the film without losing an ounce of entertainment value.
Meanwhile, Tyne and his crew decide to brave the storm and set a course for Gloucester, forced to give up the fishing expedition because of a broken ice machine. It's either risk the trip or dump the haul overboard.
"The Perfect Storm," now playing at area theaters, opened across the country last weekend at the top of the box office list, meaning lots of fans are suggesting it's worth the risk.
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