Perfect Storm – Movie Shows how Commercial Fishermen Must Risk their Lives

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I thought I was going to have a heart attack while watching the movie, “A Perfect Storm.” If you like scary, nay, terrifying movies, this can be a recommendation for you.

The movie has brilliant special effects such as the mountain-size wave of water shown in all the previews. In the actual movie, you see this mountainous wave from many angles, including from the perspective of the fisherman in the boat the wave is bearing down on.

What to me was really interesting and important about the movie, however, was the effective and compelling way the movie showed the heroic, yet ordinary, actions taken by fisherman in the course of their very dangerous jobs.

Because this movie is based on the popular book of the same name, by Sebastian Junger, most moviegoers will know the ending before the film begins, that the fisherman aboard the swordfish boat, the Andrea Gale, will die at sea in the confluence of three storm systems that converged in the North Atlantic in 1991. But knowing that doesn’t make the movie any less terrifying.

While the book is about the storms and the scientific understanding of them, the movie concentrates on the fishermen and the difficulties of their job, including the economic pressures on them to take unacceptable risks to bring in a good catch. At the end of the film the staggering statistic appears on the screen that 10,000 fisherman from the small fishing town of Gloucester, Mass., have died at sea since 1623.

This movie tells the stories of the captain and crew of one boat. Two of the men on the crew dislike each other intensely. But, at one of the high points in the movie, when one of these men gets a fishing line wrapped around his leg and gets pulled into the sea, his enemy coworker pauses for not even a second before he dives into the freezing ocean to rescue him.

In the world, many may forget that the workers do very dangerous jobs to provide food, health care, or energy, or to make steel in foundries, fabricate bridges and girders for buildings, or produce and build the necessities of life. Hundreds of thousands work at great risk in the normal course of daily life. This movie shows the daily dangers of fishing for huge swordfish off of a small vessel.

The movie also shows another profound aspect of working-class reality-cooperation. None of this dangerous work people do to provide the basic needs of society can be done alone.

Commercial fishing is intensely collaborative work. In fact, one’s very life is often in the hands of one’s coworkers. I used to think of this often when I worked in a steel fabrication shop with overhead cranes carrying tons of steel beams, plates, or pipes up and down the shop floor.

Worker collaboration and cooperation is a life-and-death matter on a daily basis in fishing, mining, construction, hospital work, transportation, and many other industries that are the economic basis of modern culture.

“A Perfect Storm” shows this. And it’s an important thing to know.

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