White Squall: Where Coming Of Age Meets The Age Of Sail

White Squall Jeff Bridges
Check it out, it’s The Dude…as a Sea Captain….maaaaan! 😉
What’s inside Jimmy D’s head for this Thursday?
Well, it being Spring and all, and yet another Thrilling Cinema Thursday

…I thought it a good idea to take to the water, with a sleeper movie from 1996 you’ve probably never heard of called…

White Squall

White Squall Poster

“What’s The Big Idea”
In 1960, 15 year old Chuck Gieg (Scott Wolfe) is searching for purpose in his young life. He convinces his parents to enroll him on Captain Christopher “Skipp” Sheldon’s (Jeff Bridges) “High School at Sea” the good ship Albatross, for a year’s voyage around the world. Not only must Gieg and his other youthful shipmates deal with the stuff that come with being a teenager, they must face together the challenges and perils of life at sea.
White Squall Albatross
“What On The Spacecraft Is Still Good?”
For one thing, this film is based on a true story. (I often wonder how closely the movie followed real events, where it falls on the slider-scale between extremely accurate, or loosely based) but regardless, it is entertaining and realistic enough, either way. Bridges gives a very believable and unfortunately under-appreciated performance as Sheldon, the “Captain Under God” of the Albatross, and the one ultimately with all these young boys lives in his hands. There are plenty of fantastic scenes where Bridges gets to show you his character’s mettle, what you’d expect from a man “seasoned” by the salts of sea life, as well as some more touching moments that hint at his fatherly affection for these boys, albeit in an “old school” kind of way.  (This IS in the early 1960’s after all, when men were tougher and…unfortunately…whiter.:P )
Let us not forget too that this IS a Ridley Scott film ( I almost did, the other day when watching it for the review! 😉 ) So you get here all that you’d expect that name applies in a movie: grand, wide landscaping shots of the sea and sail, an immersive world, a movie that “sucks you in” to its universe, and reminds you  in every second of its runtime what an amazingly beautiful big world life can be on this planet, but at the same time, how dangerous it all can be for us humans as well.
Another major item of note here is how many future young “teen heart throbs” this movie has in it in supporting roles as crew members, who went on to more meaty “headliner” roles. Of course Wolfe was already a star on Party Of Five at the time, but you also have here the budding talents of Jeremy Sisto, Ethan Embry, and Ryan Phillippe, the latter of which gives perhaps the best performance of his career here in this film, second only to maybe his starring role in Flags Of Our Fathers.
White Squall 3
One final note in the “good” section of this review I should point out, the only “memorable” track from the musical score (although the rest of the score is not bad at all) is Sting’s haunting song “Valparaio.” It’s one of those kinds of songs that even if you hate Sting, and can’t stand him (or Bryan Adams for that matter) being overused in movie soundtracks, this is one of those times where you should set that rule aside.
Sting works here. 🙂

Overall, this movie is a great mix of the funny, the dramatic, and the daring.

It’s Like People Only Do Things Because They’re Paid, And That’s Just Really Sad”
I can’t really tell you why Squall never took off at the box office. Perhaps because of the time of year this movie was released, or even the timing of when the movie came decade-wise, but I can offer a few suggestions I suppose.
 Modern 21st century humans are generally “landlubbers” and don’t give a rat’s butt about sailing, they’d rather stay on dry land and race around in tricked-out automobiles and on motorcycles with their shirts off and showing off their many tats. There are few “cool places” on deck to pimp a windward, to add some stupid looking chrome rims, neon lights, or 16’speaker systems.
This is a very roundabout sarcastic way of me saying that because the movie is about wood and wind travel, it’s going to be too slow-paced for much of the movie-watching public. (Most people today have the attention spans of cats chasing a ball of string.)
There’s nothing about a sailing experience that is sexy, “fast” or “furious.”
Squall is “too white” for much of today’s young movie-watchers. There I said it. 😀
They probably won’t give it a chance. Unfortunately.
Also because this is mostly an “ensemble” cast film, there is little time for the characters to stand out on their own, and while the movie does TRY to get you inside their heads and hearts, and DOES do a pretty decent job of it, on the first viewing, you may find yourself getting mixed up as to who is who. They’re all white boys. They all have the same style haircuts. They ALL look alike.  Frankly, If Jeff Bridges wasn’t the “old guy” on board and if he ever dared to take shirt off, I wouldn’t be able to tell him from the rest of the crew either!
White Squall 2
Much of the “teen issues” of the film are both typical of young men, and perhaps too old fashioned for some. Couple that with the slow-pace of sea-shippery, and you may find a lot of folks who watch this flick under the age of 30 just…well…falling asleep.
Oh, and while trying not to give away any spoilers here, there are scenes of animal cruelty and violence at times that may be disturbing to young sheltered viewers.
So, if you keep your kids away from anything “skeery” like Todd and Rod Flaunders, don’t watch this one. 😉
Final Thoughts
Squall is a film that deals with timeless human issues in an “old school” way. It makes those of us who have a trapped little “wanderlust boy” inside us wish we too could seek  out more adventure in our lives.

It has boyhood high-jinks, beautiful ocean vistas, and ultimately a great deal of moving tragedy packaged in this one little forgotten film from the 1990’s. It shouldn’t be forgotten, but it is. It’s an underrated gem. I’m telling you about it now so that maybe you’ll give it a looksie too. And then I’ll be doing my part to…uhh…turn back the tide of it’s…uhh…underatedery…err..yeah. 😀

Take my advice, if you’ve never seen White Squall before, give it a viewing. It is neither just teen “eye candy” for twerpy young girls, nor is it politically preachy or self-righteous. It’s just a great story. 
(Hell, it’s a whole lot better than Ridley’s Kingdom Of Heaven, even Eva Green sashaying about everywhere like a sexpot couldn’t save that turkey!)
Check it out dude, watch it with your young sea dogs. You may be surprised by how good it is.
Where we go one, we go all,
J. Devious, ESQ.

One thought on “White Squall: Where Coming Of Age Meets The Age Of Sail

  1. One of my favorite Jeff Bridges films. I thought Scott Wolfe carried the weight of his role well as “the glue ” that holds the young crew together. As you said, the scenery is beautiful and Sting’s song is hauntingly perfect for this film.
    It is one that all ages can see and find something to relate too and take with you . Nice review.

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