White Squall is a coming of age story set amid triumph and tragedy. The Ocean Academy
is sort of a floating prep school. Crusty captain Christopher Sheldon (Jeff Bridges) runs the school from
his ship the Albatross. A group of thirteen high school boys are brought on the ship to
help crew her on a 12,000 mile voyage, as well as to learn and build character. Most of the
story is told from the perspective of Chuck Gieg (Scott Wolf), a newcomer to the Academy,
and who is trying to earn the approval of his career-oriented father. Most of the crew have
their own problems of course, including an acrophobic, the tough guy (who of course hides his
problems from the rest of the crew), and even a sociopathic rich kid. Through hard work, the
kids bond with each other, and even the captain. Things are going fine and dandy...then the
squall hits. A rare meteorogical event causes a sudden horrifically violent storm that tests
the skills and courage of the crew and the captain ultimately to the breaking point. The
squall and its aftermath add much needed dimension to the film, raising it above the typical
coming-of-age story. The main problem, unfortunately, are the scenes before the storm.
The stock characters and situations could have been lifted straight out of Dead Poet's Society,
or any other such film, and slapped down on a boat. There's nothing new there. Jeff Bridges
does a good (though familiar) job as the gruff mentor of the boys. The film's strength is its
director, Ridley Scott. The visuals throughout the movie are exhilarating, and
the squall scene in particular is pulled off spectacularly (if a bit chaotically). The scene is
so powerful, it almost washes away the taint of familiarity...almost.
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