The Perfect Storm

The Perfect Storm Information

The Perfect Storm is a 2000 biographical disaster drama film directed by Wolfgang Petersen. It is an adaptation of the 1997 non-fiction book of the same title by Sebastian Junger about the crew of the Andrea Gail that got caught in the Perfect Storm of 1991. The film stars George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, William Fichtner, John C. Reilly, Diane Lane, Karen Allen and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio. The film was released on June 30, 2000 by Warner Bros. Pictures.


In October 1991, the swordfishing boat Andrea Gail returns to port in Gloucester, Massachusetts with a poor catch. Desperate for money, Captain Billy Tyne (Clooney), convinces the Andrea Gail crew to join him for one more late season fishing expedition. The crew head out past their usual fishing grounds, leaving a developing thunderstorm behind them. Initially unsuccessful, they head to the Flemish Cap, where their luck improves. At the height of their fishing the ice machine breaks; the only way to sell their catch before it spoils is to hurry back to shore. After debating whether to sail through the building storm or to wait it out, the crew decide to risk the storm. However, between the Andrea Gail and Gloucester is a confluence of two powerful weather fronts and a hurricane, which the Andrea Gail crew underestimate.

After repeated warnings from other ships, the Andrea Gail loses her antenna, forcing Captain Linda Greenlaw (Mastrantonio) of sister ship Hannah Boden to call in a Mayday. An Air National Guard rescue helicopter responds, but after failing to perform a midair refuel, the helicopter crew ditch the aircraft before it crashes, and all but one of the crew members are rescued by a Coast Guard vessel, the Tamaroa. The Andrea Gail endures various problems. With waves crashing onto the deck, a broken stabilizer ramming the side of the ship, and two men thrown overboard, the crew decide to turn around to avoid further damage by the storm. After doing so, the vessel encounters an enormous rogue wave. Billy tells Bobby (Wahlberg) to apply full power to ride over the wave; it seems that they may make it over, but the wave starts to break and the boat flips over. Billy elects to go down with his ship, the rest of the crew are trapped and only Bobby manages to surface as he watches the boat go under; however, without a life jacket, he has no chance of surviving. He is last seen all alone among the waves. There are no survivors and the film ends with Linda reading the eulogy at the memorial service, followed by Christina and Bobby's mother, Ethel, consoling each other on the dock and Billy's voice soliloquising about what it means to be a swordboat captain.


  • George Clooney as Frank William "Billy" Tyne, Jr., captain of the Andrea Gail, a swordfishing boat. Billy is a divorced father of two daughters, who is determined to undertake one last fishing trip before the end of the season to make up for a recent string of poor catches.
  • Mark Wahlberg as Robert "Bobby" Shatford, the least experienced of the crew of the Andrea Gail. Bobby is the son of Ethel Shatford, the owner of the Crow's Nest, and boyfriend to Chris Cotter. He enjoys commercial fishing, but his deepening relationship with Chris (coupled with her reluctance to let him sail again) creates conflict within himself and between the couple. Yet, he is compelled by the potential to earn more money at sea than he could make with a job on shore to sign on for one last trip.
  • Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio as Linda Greenlaw, the captain of the Hannah Boden. Linda and Billy both captain ships for the same owner and maintain a friendly rivalry. She is concerned about Billy and his crew's going out in what she considers dangerous weather. Linda is the last to speak to the Andrea Gail.
  • Diane Lane as Christina "Chris" Cotter, girlfriend of Bobby Shatford. She does not want Bobby to go on the trip because of a bad feeling she has about it. She spends her time during the last fishing trip decorating an apartment she has rented as a surprise for Bobby to symbolize her commitment to him.
  • John C. Reilly as Dale "Murph" Murphy, crewmember on the Andrea Gail. Murph is a veteran fisherman who is divorced with a son with whom he's very involved. Murph has a rocky relationship with crewmember David "Sully" Sullivan that is eventually resolved during the trip.
  • William Fichtner as David "Sully" Sullivan, crewmember on the Andrea Gail. He signed on for the trip at the last minute when another fisherman suddenly backed out. Sully and Murph initially have an antagonistic relationship that is fueled in part by Sully's past involvement with Murph's ex-wife, although the details are not made clear in the film.
  • Michael Ironside as Bob Brown, owner of the Andrea Gail. Although Brown seems to harbor a deep-seated recognition of Tyne's skills at catching fish, he nevertheless pressures Tyne over the latter's recent inability to bring in larger hauls, resulting in an uneasy relationship between the two.
  • Bob Gunton as Alexander McAnally III, owner of the Mistral, a yacht caught in the storm.
  • Karen Allen as Melissa Brown, crewmember on the Mistral.
  • Cherry Jones as Edie Bailey, crewmember on the Mistral.
  • Allen Payne as Alfred Pierre, one of the crew of the Andrea Gail.
  • John Hawkes as Michael "Bugsy" Moran, a member of the Andrea Gail crew. Bugsy's somewhat comic inability to connect with women appears to change on the eve of the trip, when he meets a divorced mother at the Crow's Nest, who later comes to the dock to see him off. They hint at the prospect of a budding relationship that fatefully never materializes.
  • Janet Wright as Ethel Shatford, Bobby's mother.
  • Dash Mihok as Sgt. Jeremy Mitchell, crewmember on the Air National Guard rescue helicopter.


The film is based on Junger's non-fiction book of the same title. The book itself has sometimes been accused of factual errors (e.g., misspelling of a person's name), one-sided research (e.g., initially not interviewing the skipper and owner of the yacht Satori) and bias against the fishing industry (e.g., role of drinking among fishermen); the author and, according to him, also fishermen, have defended the book. The film omits many of the book's technical details, like the prominent role of the Canadian Coast Guard, as well as contested parts about the Andrea Gail 's stability (resistance to capsizing).

The film only claims to be "based on a true story". It differs in many ways from the book, starting with the fictionalization of the material into a "story". The film also continues to narrate the story of the Andrea Gail after its last radio contact. As the boat and the bodies of the crew were never found, these final events (e.g., the decision to change course, the 180 knockdown, etc.) are entirely speculation.

Most names were not changed for the fictional film. The families of certain crew members of the Andrea Gail sued the producers in federal district court in Florida, claiming that their names were used without their permission, and that facts were changed. The district court held that the defendants' First Amendment right to freedom of speech barred the suit. The plaintiffs appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, which could not decide how to interpret the Florida law at issue and certified the question to the Florida Supreme Court. On April 21, 2005, the Florida Supreme Court upheld the district court's interpretation of Florida law and remanded the case to the 11th Circuit, which then affirmed the district court's original decision to dismiss the case.

An exception is the portrayal of the yacht whose crew was taken off-board by the US Coast Guard. Its story is clearly based on the events surrounding the Westsail 32 Satori, which are also dealt with in Junger's book; Junger's version of the event, however, is contested by the owner and skipper of the yacht, who was not interviewed for Junger's book, but is supported by the two crewmembers on the Satori and the Coast Guard rescuers. The film highly fictionalizes the story of the Satori; it renames the boat Mistral, and leaves its crew anonymous, making no explicit claim about the "true" identity of the boat.

According to the owner's son, the Satori never made a 360 roll (a capsize), although it had two knockdowns, during which it lay on its side for about 30 seconds. The owner and skipper of the Satori, Ray Leonard, had confidence in the boat, having sailed her in difficult conditions before, whereas his two female crewmembers were in a state of panic. He allowed them to make a position report over radio, but while Leonard was out of earshot their tone became so agitated that it was misinterpreted as a Mayday. One of those crewmembers reported that she was so convinced that she was going to die that she wrote her name down and put it into a plastic bag so that her body could be identified when it was finally found, and they believed"?quite erroneously"?that the boat was close to breaking up. The Coast Guard declared the voyage manifestly unsafe and ordered everyone off-board"?including the unwilling skipper. The Coast Guard first tried to take them on board via an inflatable boat, but after it was damaged when trying to approach the Satori they sent a helicopter, which is a much riskier approach as a rescue swimmer must jump in the dangerous seas. The Coast Guard helicopter did not try to lower rescue gear onto the yacht (as shown in the film, where it gets entangled with the mast), but rather asked the crew of the Satori to jump overboard to meet a rescue swimmer in the water. Leonard eventually complied, wanting to look after his crew in the water, and knowing he wouldn't be able to use US ports for several years if he failed to follow the orders. After they were on board the helicopter, the crew of the damaged inflatable boat were rescued. Different from the film's narrative, this helicopter was not identical to the National Guard helicopter, which later had an emergency landing on water and lost a crew member, Rick Smith.

In spite of the attempts of Leonard to locate the Satori after the storm while she was still afloat, she was found a few days later washed ashore on a Maryland beach, having sustained no damage after the crew left her. A bag of personal belongings left on deck was still there, showing that the boat suffered no further problems whilst sailing herself. Leonard paid for a 60ft fishing vessel to drag her off the beach, helped by a channel dug by Park Rangers who had been guarding the boat. He continued to sail the boat until 2000, and she remains in use today. The story is often used as an example of how yachts are frequently far more capable than their crew in extreme conditions. Leonard says the bad publicity from the accounts of the storm lost him most of his work delivering boats, and said that he is "not bitter, but I don't think the book or movie explained what sailing's all about. Bluewater sailors are sharp, self-reliant, and proud."


The film was nominated for two Academy Awards, Best Visual Effects and Best Sound (John T. Reitz, Gregg Rudloff, David E. Campbell and Keith A. Wester).

The Perfect Storm received mixed critical consensus, holding a 47% approval rating on critic site Rotten Tomatoes with a consensus of, "While the special effects are well done and quite impressive, this film suffers from any actual drama or characterization. The end result is a film that offers nifty eye-candy and nothing else."

The Perfect Storm was a huge box office success, bringing in over $182.6 million in the United States, and $146.1 million around the world to a total of $328.7 million worldwide.

See also

  • 106th Rescue Wing
  • 129th Rescue Wing
  • 1991 Perfect Storm
  • Air Force Pararescue
  • The Perfect Storm (book)

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