ON OCTOBER 30, 1991, a storm churned up off the coast of Gloucester, Massachusetts, and swallowed up the swordfishing boat Andrea Gail along with her crew of six. The National Weather Service said this was a "perfect storm," both for its natural origins and its intensity. Sebastian Junger wrote a book about the event, which he called The Perfect Storm, and to me the story sounds like Into Thin Air, but with an even more depressing ending. A fishing boat accident doesn't seem like the stuff of a summer blockbuster. Then again, it doesn't pay to second-guess Hollywood. Not only did Warner Brothers buy this story, not only did they give it to an A-list director, and not only did they get a name cast, but they decided to release it on June 30, 2000, in the height of the summer blockbuster season.

Their choice of directors was smart. Wolfgang Petersen made a name for himself with Das Boot, the claustrophobic submarine epic, and has proved himself capable of action films that are confined to small spaces with Air Force One. If anyone can handle shooting on water without the budget ballooning to Waterworld proportions, he's the man. Then, in the lead roles, Warner Brothers landed George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg, fresh off their success in Three Kings.

Still, even with an accomplished action-film director and two popular actors, I thought the movie would be a hard sell. Then, while waiting for a movie in a local multiplex, I saw the trailer. Now I understand why they're releasing it in June. Throughout the trailer, it still felt like a gloomy movie about a fishing boat lost at sea--not all that exciting, up until the very last shot in the trailer. That's when everything changes. That's when you see this tiny fishing boat being swept up into an enormous tidal wave. It's a breathtaking shot, even if the water does seem digitally enhanced.

Just as the horribly mediocre Deep Impact was made into a must-see movie thanks to the one shot of tidal waves crashing into New York City, I believe The Perfect Storm will earn at least $20 million more thanks to this one shot in the trailer. When it comes to large returns for large movies, you don't need a good story, and you don't even need a talented cast and crew. What you need is the perfect image, and The Perfect Storm has found it.

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