If there was one-word to describe this film it would be INTENSE. It will come as a surprise to many but in the first thirty minutes of the two-hour movie, there is literally no action and therein lies its clever deception. It feels like a drama at first, the characters all interacting with each other and the townsfolk.
These aren’t much more developed than the standard Summer blockbuster characters but the way it plays out is more involving than normal because they all feel real. The guys have several day beard growths and are covered in grease, the women are tough but sincere, and there’s beer bellies and double chins all around – other than the occasional flash of distractingly white capped teeth, this feels realistic.
Diane Lane and Mark Wahlberg do the whole ‘young couple in passionate love’ well, but its the subtler storylines that work better. Clooney and Mastrantonio’s characters have a understated professional friendship-attraction which sparks brightly, and I really wish there’d been more scenes involving the two (and it’s great to see her back in a big-budget picture again – she makes every supporting role her own).
There’s also a short storyline involving the love-unlucky ‘Bugsy’ (John Hawkes) and the tough housewife Irene (Rusty Schwimmer) which is kind of bittersweet. Michael Ironside delivers his trademark baddie-of-sorts with his usual pinache. Then the crew sets out and this is where the engaging drama begins to change and increase its grip like a real storm does.
Petersen doesn’t go right into it, oh no he certainly knows how to handle suspense and for the next thirty minutes various events of steadily increasing action and intensity hit you, ranging from a fishing catch of something you don’t want to be near or a ‘rogue wave’ out of the blue.
Petersen also spreads out the concentration of the story a little bit throughout the last two-thirds of the flick to various other ‘sub-plots’ of other people involved in the storm such as a Boston weatherman warning us of the impending doom, a trio of sailing vessel passengers, a Coast Guard rescue helicopter/plane/boat crew, the aforementioned Mastrantonio, and the action back with the women at home.
Once the tension is high, the action is slammed into high gear and for the next fifty minutes sit back in awe. A film like M:I-2 maybe gave you a brief rush for about 5-10 minutes during that bike chase – now think at least double that intensity for a full hour and you’ll understand that by the end of the flick you’ll feel physically drained.
The pace goes fast and never lets up, the FX-created sea is perfectly realistic and unrelenting, the sound is deafening yet so real. This is a disaster movie which you really can be swept up in, at times during this hour one or two sequences do seem repetitive, but you probably won’t notice it. This is a ticket ride to hell on Earth and you’re in the front seat – the atmosphere of the flick is that good.
Then there’s the ending and to be honest, whether you know the outcome or not (I did), it makes almost zero difference to the enjoyment of the flick. This is a solid, heart-pounding movie filled with action, FX, drama, courage and tragedy. Summer films don’t come much better than this, none have so far this year.