Summary of the Movie "White Squall"

by Allison Horky

"White Squall" was directed by Ridley Scott and stars Jeff Bridges. The movie is based on the true events about a ship named the "Albatross" that sank in 1960. The movie details the lessons taught to the boys by the captain, the sinking of the ship and the maritime hearing that followed.

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Ship Orientation

The movie begins with 12 boys boarding the "Albatross," a two-masted ship that takes students on a school sailing trip. They soon learn that the captain (played by Bridges), whom they call Skipper, is tough on discipline. He does not tolerate bad behavior, disrespecting the rules of the ship, and demands crew unity. Chuck Gieg (played by Scott Wolf) quickly begins to see the Skipper as a role model on the ship. The other main characters include the young first mate Shay Jennings (Jason Marsden), a pretentious student named Frank Beaumont (Jeremy Sisto), the troublemaker Dean Preston (Eric Michael Cole), older student Tod Johnstone (Balthazar Getty), inexperienced Tracy Lapchick (Ethan Embry) and Gil Martin (Ryan Phillippe), their English teacher (John Savage), the captain's wife (Caroline Goodall) and chef (Julio Oscar Mechoso).

Learning Lessons

The captain's goal is to teach the boys how to be a unified crew. Along the way, he confronts the issues that each teen is dealing with. For example, Chuck wants to forge his own way and defy whatever expectations his parents have set out for him. Gil is desperately afraid of heights --- the Skipper makes him climb a tall rope ladder anyway. Dean is not able to complete the tests with passing grades, so instead of cheating, which can get him kicked off the ship, a few of the boys form an informal study group to help him pass. They begin to see their successes accomplished as a crew, not as individuals.

The White Squall

The ship is heading back toward the United States after sailing around Grenada, Panama and Latin America. The seas seem calm, but a storm begins to develop very quickly. A white squall, a violent surge of waves, wind and water, hits the boat, knocking it on its side. The ship begins to sink as the crew tries to keep track of one another. The captain is looking for his wife under the deck and Shay sees Gil locked inside the cabin --- they do not make it out. The chef and Dean are also lost with the sinking of the ship. The rest of the crew and captain hold up on life boats until another ship discovers them.

Maritime Hearing

After back on shore, the media and parents want to know the details of the ship's sinking. A maritime hearing is held by the U.S. Coast Guard to determine if the captain's license should be taken away. The captain relinquishes his license and Chuck makes an emotional speech trying to convince those present at the hearing that you can't control the weather. At the hearing's conclusion, the Skipper does not lose his sea captain's license after all.

Photo Credits

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