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The Perfect Storm

review by Ren C.

 

Rated PG-13

Studio: Warner Bros.

Running Time: 130 minutes

Starring: George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, John C. Reily

Written by William D. Wittliff
Based on the book by Sebastian Junger

Directed by Wolfgang Petersen

Retail Price: $24.98

Features: Commentaries, Documentaries, Storyboards, Photo Montages, Trailer
(Also avaiable in special boxed sets)

Specs: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby Digital 5.1, French Audio Track, English and French Subtitles

Before watching this movie, I had very high expectations, as I had heard from a number of people who said that it was the gem of the summer. In retrospect, I think that my expectations might have been a little too high. While The Perfect Storm was a good movie, that was all that it was, it wasn't spectacular, it wasn't phenomenal, it was just good.

The movie tells the story of the Andrea Gail, a fishing boat from Gloucester, Massachusetts. The crew of the boat, captained by Billy Tyne (George Clooney) has fallen upon hard times recently, with the catch being down, especially for someone with Tyne's standards. Tyne feels pressured to go out and, in a way, prove himself to the owner of the company, his crew and himself. He pulls his crew back together after a scant few days' rest, and they set out onto the ocean once again. However, what Tyne doesn't know is that they are headed right into the heart of one of the largest hurricanes seen in history.

That is the overall plot of the movie, but there are many other underlying plot twists going on at the same time, including several with Tyne's crew. This was one of my main problems with the movie. While the crew was developed, it seemed very superficial, almost as though we were trying to find a reason to care for the characters that we never quite managed to accomplish. Also, as a side effect of this, the first hour or so of the movie seemed fairly slow, as we did have to see the plot put into action. However, once we do get into the general meat of the movie, the plot picks up fairly quickly. While this movie is based on a true story, the action scenes work much better than the plot-driven sequences, mainly because the action scenes are executed so well.

The action scenes are at the very heart of the movie, and as such, they should be top-notch. That's almost an understatement with these, as the attention and care put into them is very noticeable. But, as I stated, I wish that a little more care had been put into the development of the story and its characters, as the plot seems almost book-ended onto the action.

 

No complaints here. The transfer is impeccable, with the colors being as deep, dark, and rich as they should be in a movie-at-sea of this type. The transfer is one of the best that I have seen, and I have no complaints.

As good as the video is, the audio might be even better. I could actually feel the shaking when the Andrea Gail heads into the storm, and this was only one of the points where my sound system was put through its paces. The dialogue also came through very well, despite being slightly overshadowed by the music in some of the bar scenes. Again, an excellent, almost reference quality audio mix.

When Warner Brothers says "Special Edition", that is exactly what they mean, as "The Perfect Storm" is loaded to the figurative rafters with features. First up, I would be remiss for not mentioning the great full-motion menus that lead us into the movie. The disc opens with what is almost a teaser trailer for the movie itself that is very impressive, as are all the menus on the disc.

We then move on to the fairly standard cast and crew section with the movie listings that appear to have been lifted verbatim off IMDB. Almost a standard feature at this point, as no new territory is broached here.

We then move onto not one, not two, but three separate commentary tracks. The first commentary track is with director Wolfgang Petersen. Petersen is very animated in discussing this movie, relating anecdotes about the location, the actors and other details about the movie. Listening to this track, we can tell that he enjoyed making the movie, and that he is happy to have the chance to talk about it. The second commentary track is with visual effects supervisor Stefen Fangmeier and visual effects producer Helen Elswit. I'm generally not a big fan of commentaries with people that have such a limited role in the movie, but in the case of The Perfect Storm, visual effects play a major role. As such, Fangmeier and Elswit tend to have a lot to talk about, including the production of the major storm sequences. The final commentary track is with the writer of the book The Perfect Storm, and co-writer of the movie, Sebastian Junger. For me, this was the most interesting track, because Junger has the advantage of not only working on the movie, but also of writing the book, so he has an absolutely extensive knowledge of the Andrea Gail and its crew, and he articulates it very well. Together, these three tracks comprise a very authoritative and informative view of how the movie was put together.

Next up is a series of several documentaries about the making of the movie. First is the HBO First-Look Special "Creating the Perfect Storm." As with the majority of the HBO First-Look Specials, this tends to be promotional, but there is also some interesting information within it, such as interviews with the relatives of the actual crew members of the Andrea Gail, and a look at how ILM created some of the storms within the movie. Not as promotional and fluffy as some of the HBO First-Looks and definitely not a waste of time, this was a very interesting documentary to watch. "Witnesses to the Storm" is a fairly short interview segment with some of the locals in Gloucester that were present in 1991 when the storm took place. The piece is not at all promotional and is a very nice addition to the disc, giving some additional background information as to what the people that actually lived it felt. "Creating an Emotion" was an especially nice addition, as one of the major things that struck me about the movie was how powerful James Horner's score was. It was very nice to get this behind-the-scenes look at how the score was developed.

There are also some other interesting features included on the disc. The first is a series of conceptual art shots, which were put together before the movie started filming. While these generally do not interest me that much, the commentary by Wolfgang Petersen helped, as he described each painting, and its relevance to the movie. Next is a photo montage of stills from the movie, set to the theme to "The Perfect Storm", "Yours Forever" by John Mellencamp. The song is definitely not one of Mellencamp's better songs, and I can only guess that there was no video made, hence the slideshow of stills and the dialogue from the movie woven into the song a la Bruce Springsteen's "Secret Garden" from "Jerry Maguire".

Wrapping up the disc we find the theatrical trailer, a brief promo for the soundtrack and a series of storyboards documenting some of the movies more action-filled scenes, among them the shark attack. This disc is feature-laden, and will certainly provide a great deal of information and entertainment to fans of the movie.

While the movie wasn't the masterpiece that I thought it was going to be, that certainly doesn't take away from the quality of the disc. This is one of those discs where everything is done to near-perfection, and I have no hesitation in giving it a high recommendation.

(3.5/5, NOT included in final score)

(4.5/5)

(4.5/5)

(4.5/5)

(4.5/5, NOT an average)

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