Sure, I know what you’re thinking. George Clooney being a manly man, gritting his pearly whites and saving lives. Hey, this ain’t E.R, folks. This is a real-life action drama.
You may have heard of the “Storm of the Century” that smacked into New England in 1991. You might also have heard of the Andrea Gail, a small fishing boat caught smack dab in the middle of it. Of course, you might also have watched the documentary on MSNBC before this movie aird, and therefore you know the ending anyway. Luckily for me, I kept myself ignorant (a planned action, I assure you!), and had no idea what the end result was for this movie. And no, I’m not going to tell you the ending. Sure, I know, it’s not exactly a twist ending, and you could find out on your own if you wanted. So go ahead, find out. We critics don’t give away endings. It’s part of the Critics Society secret waiver we signed.
Anyway, here’s the tale in a nutshell. Billy Tyne (Clooney) is a grizzled fishing-boat captain who pilots the Andrea Gail, owned by Bob Brown (Michael Ironside). Seems Billy’s had a run of bad luck lately, and when he and rival fisherman Linda Greenlaw (Mary Elizabeth Mastrontonio, not too far from “The Abyss”) return from a run, he’s the one with the lesser load. Gritting those teeth and raising a fist, Billy returns to the deep a scant two days after leaving it, determined to find some damn fish.
His plan is to go further than usual. I’m no cartographer, but I can tell you his plan was to go a ways, then go further than that, because that’s where the fish are, by gum. So our old salt rallies his crew together, and off they go. And fish they catch! Big ones, and of course there’s the requisite crewmen-who-don’t-like-each-other, and a nasty old shark, and all sorts of hilarious hijinks, just the sort of stuff you’d expect to see (no pun intended) in a movie about deep-sea fishing.
So they have the fish, and they’re heading back home, and they’re so damn happy, and WHAM! They find out they’re heading into a big ol’ horkin’ storm. You’ve seen the commercials – this is what it’s all leading up to. So they have a choice – turn around and go the long way (and lose their fish, which would spoil) or go through that nasty old storm? Guess which one Billy wants to do.
Among the other cast members, Mark Wahlberg does a solid, commanding job as greenhorn Bobby Shatford and John C. Reilly is a treat as veteran sailor Murph. Karen Allen and Diane Lane are relegated to small, thankless roles.
Ar, ar, me hearties! Batten down yer masts! See Clooney rage madly at the storm like King Lear! Hey, look, folks, it’s simple. You wanna see George Clooney be a tough guy? Here’s your movie. You want a story and believable characters? Go see Yentl. I almost thought the sea was full of testosterone, since these guys seemed to be swimming in it. So pack up your grunts and belches, and have a blast with this escapist movie!