PG-13 Dir: Wolfgang Petersen | Warner | 2h 10min
Plot: What’s it about?
In the Fall of 1991, something happened. What’s later described as “The Perfect Storm”, hit the Eastern seaboard and caused all sorts of havoc, death and destruction. Now The Perfect Storm is more than just another hurricane like Andrew or Hugo. It was much worse. Combining the elements of three storm, they all combined and headed toward land. The brunt of the storm was felt in Massachusetts, in the town of Glaucester. Ironically enough, this is where the story takes place. This was no drop in the bucket, it really was a storm to end all storms. Reliving the events, it’s clear to see how much it changed the lives of the locals, as they were interviewed for the DVD some nine years later. People lost homes, cars and members of their family all to an act of Mother Nature. The movie, The Perfect Storm, takes place in Glaucester, Mass. at the time of the storm (a few days before, obviously) and concentrates on the lives of a fishing crew aboard the Andrea Gail. As we learn, there have been tens of thousands of fisherman killed in just 400 years. They have had their lives taken by the sea. So why do they keep doing it? As one local is interviewed, he puts it like this…”It gets in you, you just gotta go back…”. So we see the courage and dedication of the crew and men who put their lives on the line several months of the year, but it’s events like these that make the world sit up and take notice.
The crew of the Andrea Gail is composed of the Captain, Billy Tyne (George Clooney). Billy, a long time sailor who loves what he does, has hit a dry spell recently and his latest run isn’t what it used to be. Fish pay the bills, and what Billy’s been bringing home hasn’t been cutting it. Loyal crew member, Bobby Stratford (Mark Wahlberg) is struggling as well. Though Bobby has a very beautiful loved one to come home to, Christina (Diane Lane), whereas Billy’s heart lies in the sea. Cashing in their recent catch, Billy decides to go out once again the next day, he figures that his streak is bound to end, and with a lot of fisherman calling it quits for the season, he assumes that his luck is bound to change. Gathering together his crew, plus a few others, Billy and the gang head out to sea for one more rendezvous with the sea. One issue I never really understood was the tension between Dale “Murph” Murphy’s (John C. Reilly) and David “Skully” Sullivan’s (William Fichtner) characters. They seem to not hit it off at all and from the opening scene on, they are constantly at odds with each other. True, this is based on a true story, but it made for more of a distraction than an element of plot. As the group heads out, their hopes are high and it’s not long before the group is attempting to lure in the catch.
Finding that their luck still hasn’t changed, they keep in contact with Linda Greenway (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio), the only female skipper who seems to pull fish where there are none. Linda, being cautious, warns of an upcoming storm that could get ugly. It’s at this point that the crew has to make a decision…do they turn around and go home with another sub-par catch, or head further out to sea where they know they’ll get a very good return? Letting money do the thinking for them, they decide to head on out to sea and are instantly rewarded with a very healthy catch of fish, by far the best of the season for them. However when the ice-maker stops working (the whole boat is held together by a thread, everything’s old), they have no choice but to head back to land or risk having the catch spoil and hence, lose their money. Bucking the odds, they decide to head back as opposed to wait it out in the clear weather. They know of the risk, but figure they can beat the storm back. They don’t.
While The Perfect Storm may not have some of the most sophisticated plot material, it certainly delivers as an action movie. The cast is first rate, with George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg headlining. Also included are Diane Lane, Christopher McDonald, John C. Reilly, Allen Payne, William Fichtner and Karen Allen. Drawing from the best-selling book by Sebastian Junger, The Perfect Storm dares to tell us what it was like being right in the middle of the worst storm in recorded history. Featuring top notch special effects by ILM (Industrial Light and Magic) and a brilliant score by James Horner, The Perfect Storm looks and sounds great on this fully-loaded DVD. Drop anchor and get comfortable…this disc features over 10 hours of supplemental material!
Video: How does it look?
In my opinion, Warner puts out some of the best-looking DVD transfers. Of course, it’s just my opinion. With a single disc containing the movie, three commentary tracks and about thirty extra minutes of documentaries material, you’d figure that they would pull a “Fox” and make it a two disc special edition. Well, they didn’t. Warner has also just entered the DVD-18 market with “A Star is Born” and their upcoming “Gettysburg”. Anyway, onto the video…The Perfect Storm is presented in it’s original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, which is of course 16:9 enhanced. I can’t imagine this film in any other format. The waves (and there are a LOT of them) breaking and the storm(s) swirling make you feel like you’re actually there. The colors are a bit subtle at first, but the bleakness and grayness of the storm is only enhanced by the soundtrack. Colors are very natural, and color is something you miss when you get into the latter half of the movie. Not a grain, not a speck, not the slightest compression error. The Perfect Storm has the perfect transfer, which will look good on your TV…no matter how wide it is.
Audio: How does it sound?
More and more movies are coming out with the new Dolby Digital EX sound system. This, coupled with the DTs ES format, make the “typical” 5.1 experience something of the past. Yes, while the EX is no more than a rear surround channel, movies sound a lot more active and vibrant with the format, as this is not just another marketing ploy. Well, maybe…Still, this soundtrack simply sounds awesome during key moments of the presentation. The storm, obviously, takes center stage as the crew fights for their lives against it. The surrounds are very active at times, and almost are constantly abuzz during the storm sequence. The sub, and this movie will make you glad you have one, is also very busy as well cranking out LFE effect, one after the other. Dialogue, which is not totally forgotten here, is also very clean and concise and doesn’t suffer from any distortion here at all. Clearly, this is one of the best soundtracks out there, and they keep getting better. If the question you ask is “Will this sound good on my home theater?” then the answer is a hearty “Aye, mate…”.
Supplements: What are the extras?
The box reads…”Awash in splashy features”, so I guess that means I can be a bit lighthearted in my review of their supplemental material. The main features of The Perfect Storm include not one, not two, but three (ahoy) commentary tracks. The first being by Director Wolfgang Petersen and JM Kenney. Petersen, not all that unfamiliar with the water (Das Boot), has a good time telling of the making of the film, and the commentary is as close to screen specific as you can expect. The second commentary is by the author of the best-selling book, Sebastian Junger. Junger obviously holds a place in his heart for this movie, and it’s reflected in his commentary. Though there are some serious gaps within, it’s still nice to hear a commentary track by someone who is basically responsible for the movie to begin with. Lastly, a third commentary with Visual Effects Supervisor, Helen Ostenberg Elswit is among the most informative. Obviously, visual effects play a very important role in this movie, and the commentary lets us know what was to be expected; the featurette shows us how it was like as well. In addition to the commentaries, there are a few featurettes. The most informative, an HBO “First Look” Behind the Scenes, is a documentary that gives the history of this storm and it’s long-lasting effect on the town. Interviews with the cast and crew help us realize that this wasn’t an easy movie to make, what with the movie being filmed in the same town that the movie took place.
Also included are some other, very brief, featurettes…”Witness to the Storm” has some very interesting interviews with those who either lived through the storm or were on land when it happened. While “Creating an Emotion” concentrates on composer, James Horner’s dedication to the movie. It’s really quite intriguing how a score is made for a motion picture, and this chronicles how it’s all said and done. Some other features include a storyboard gallery with commentary by Wolfgang Petersen, “Yours Forever” a music video performed by John “Cougar” Mellencamp and some DVD-ROM features that have access to the original website, links and access to the chatroom. Couple all of this with Warner’s standard production notes, cast BIOS and theatrical trailers…and you’ve got an Authority Award winner here, folks. Run, don’t walk to witness The Perfect Storm. Smooth sailing to ye…