Friday, December 13



Epic ‘Afterschool Special’ doesn’t sink, but offers few

By Brandon Wilson

Daily Bruin Contributor

The latest Ridley Scott film "White Squall" takes its title from
a rare weather condition that can be the end of a ship at sea. What
this means exactly and why it’s different from a monsoon is a
mystery that apparently baffles even the filmmakers since they
never bother to properly explain the phenomenon.

Yet the squall is the only thing that might pass for a surprise
in this by-the-numbers, coming-of-age film. The movie is an
interesting turn in the career of Ridley Scott, whose skill with
visuals, on a good day, approaches and achieves brilliance. His
1979 film "Alien" broke the boundaries of the sci-fi horror genre
and left its mark on a horde of films to follow. Even more widely
ripped off and praised as genius is his 1982 effort "Blade Runner,"
which set a new standard of excellence by which filmmakers today
must still judge their works by. Unfortunately, Scott seems to be
on a strict "onemasterpiece-a-decade" regimen which forbids him
from turning out consecutive classics.

Some would argue that 1991′s "Thelma & Louise" was Ridley’s
contribution to this decade’s canon, while others are still waiting
for Scott’s next gem. One thing is certain: Scott’s ’90s masterwork
wasn’t the overlong "1492," nor is it "White Squall."

Scott’s newest offering isn’t a bad film, but neither is it a
great one. We’ve seen stories about young boys on the threshold of
manhood, and the tenuous steps these boys take offer nothing new to

The year is 1960, and the Ocean Academy offers the young men of
financially-able families the opportunity to spend a year at sea,
learning all the basics on hand at a conventional prep school plus
the experience of crewing a square-rigged brigantine called the

At the helm is Jeff Bridges as Captain Christopher Sheldon, a
crusty sea dog with a world-class haircut. Sheldon presides over a
crew including actors Scott Wolf and Balthazar Getty, very much a
case of rounding up the usual suspects: there’s the tough/young
Brando kid, the sensitive kid, the rich kid who hates Daddy, and of
course the relatively level-headed kid who we’re meant to identify
with. They clash. They make friends. They learn the meaning of the
word "shipmate." Ho-hum.

Then nature’s wrath arrives and lives are lost. This leads to a
climax where Captain Sheldon must live up to the same ideals he’s
instilled in his young charges.

"White Squall" isn’t without its moments, but ultimately it
still seems like an epic "Afternoon Special" with
better-than-average cinematography. The film doesn’t have much in
common with the Scott classics that earned him a reputation as a
visionary, and it will be interesting to see what happens to that
reputation if "White Squall" is any indication of the shallow
waters the director’s career is charted for.

FILM: "White Squall." Written by Todd Robinson. Directed by
Ridley Scott. Starring Jeff Bridges, Caroline Goodall, John Savage,
Scott Wolf and Balthazar Getty. Grade: B-


Jeff Bridges

"White Squall" almost drowns in watery grave with Jeff Bridges
at helm.


Jason Marsden, Jeff Bridges, Scott Wolf and Balthazar
GettyComments to [email protected]

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