Director Wolfgang Petersen returns to form after the disappointing Air Force One (1997) with this taut, detailed account of 1991's "storm of the century." Though the film's landlocked melodrama never takes off -- most of it consists of the fishermen's significant others biting their nails and overacting -- the action at sea is tense, believable, and completely unrelenting. Petersen adeptly mixes CGI visual effects with impressive soundstage recreations and location footage, as he charts the doomed course of crazily-determined skipper Billy Tyne (George Clooney) and his more cautious neophyte crewman Bob Shatford (Mark Wahlberg, in a standout performance). Though the film's dark, complex set pieces have the potential to be murky and convoluted, Petersen never shortchanges the audience with confusing logistics, shaky camerawork, or jumpy editing. In every scene, there's a palpable, specific sense of the risk and danger involved -- so much so that James Horner's cloying score seems redundant and superficial. One particularly sore spot: the talented Karen Allen is underused as a yachtswoman caught in the eye of the storm; it's as if her scenes were left on the cutting-room floor.
by Michael Hastings review