White Squall (film)

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White Squall
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRidley Scott
Produced byMimi Polk Gitlin
Rocky Lang
Screenplay byTodd Robinson
Based onThe Last Voyage of the Albatross
by Charles Gieg
Music byJeff Rona
CinematographyHugh Johnson
Edited byGerry Hambling
Distributed byBuena Vista Pictures
Release date
  • February 2, 1996 (1996-02-02)
Running time
129 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$38 million[1]
Box office$10,292,300 (United States)[2]

White Squall is a 1996 American disaster survival feature film directed by Ridley Scott. It is a coming of age film in which a group of high school and college age teenagers sign up for several months of training aboard a sail ship, a brigantine, and travel around half the globe when suddenly they are challenged by a severe storm. The film stars Jeff Bridges in the role of the captain, called "Skipper", his wife, played by Caroline Goodall, and a supporting cast portraying a group of nearly a dozen student sailors.


The film is based on the fate of the brigantine Albatross, which sank 2 May 1961, allegedly because of a white squall. The film relates the ill-fated school sailing trip led by Dr. Christopher B. Sheldon (Jeff Bridges), whom the boys call "Skipper". He is tough and teaches them discipline. He forms a close connection with all-American Chuck Gieg (Scott Wolf), troubled rich kid Frank Beaumont (Jeremy Sisto), shy Gil Martin (Ryan Phillippe) and bad-boy Dean Preston (Eric Michael Cole). On the first days, it is discovered that one of the student crew members, Gil Martin, suffers from acrophobia and does not even try to rescue Chuck, who nearly chokes to death when he becomes entangled in some rigging after slipping from one of the masts. After Chuck was saved by Skipper Sheldon, Gil is ordered to climb the ropes, which he ultimately cannot do, and is assigned to alternative limited duty while on board.

Eventually, the brigantine puts into shore and the boys take their leave on the island. Frank's wealthy father and mother give him a surprise visit while the crew is in port. Frank is upset that the visit seems poorly timed by his overbearing parents, and he becomes separated from the boys and their festivities when his parents require him to go out to "steak dinner" with them. The father and son end up in a fist fight and become further estranged by the visit and the fight.

After a night of festivities, the crew set out to sea again on the next day. When the brigantine encounters a school of dolphins, Frank, still angry at his father, vents his fury by shooting one of the dolphins with a harpoon. Skipper demands Frank at least put the animal out of its misery, but he can't bring himself to, so Skipper kills it, then tells Frank he's been expelled from the program and puts him ashore at the next port.

Soon after, while at sea, the brigantine encounters a freakish "white squall" storm. The vessel is battered by the seas, and the boys try to use what the Skipper has taught them to survive the horrific ordeal. Most of them succeed in abandoning the vessel, but Gil, three other students, the Skipper's wife and the cook, are all drowned.

When the survivors are rescued and reach land, the Skipper is put on trial, with Frank's powerful parents leading the call for his license to be revoked. Eventually the Skipper refuses to allow anyone else to be blamed for the disaster, and accepts responsibility, but his former students all stand up for him, and Frank turns against his bullying parents to support the Skipper, as all the boys embrace him.



Part of the film was shot using a horizon tank in Malta, with a full-sized mock-up of the ship, the Eye of the Wind, used to depict the Albatross in scenes shot mainly in the Caribbean.[3] Maurice Jarre was originally scheduled to compose the original score, but was replaced by Hans Zimmer's protégé Jeff Rona. Zimmer was set to replace Jarre but failed to commit due to time difficulties. The song in the end credits is "Valparaiso" by Sting.


On Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 60% based on 35 reviews. The site's consensus states: "Though it gets occasionally bogged down by touchy-feely sentiment, White Squall benefits greatly from Jeff Bridges' assured lead performance and Ridley Scott's visceral, exciting direction".[4] White Squall, like Scott's previous film, 1492: Conquest of Paradise, was a box office disappointment.

Roger Ebert gave it three stars. In his review he said "I enjoyed the movie for the sheer physical exuberance of its adventure."[5]


  1. ^ "White Squall - Box Office Data". The Numbers. Retrieved 7 August 2011.
  2. ^ "White Squall (1996)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 7 August 2011.
  3. ^ "Mediterranean Film Studios - Unique Water Tanks". Retrieved 10 May 2017.
  4. ^ White Squall at Rotten Tomatoes
  5. ^ Ebert, Roger. "White Squall movie review & film summary (1996)". Chicago Sun-Times.

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