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The Perfect Storm(2000)
October 1991. It was "the perfect storm" — a tempest that may happen only once in a century — a nor'easter created by so rare a combination of factors that it could not possibly have been worse. Creating waves ten stories high and winds of 120 miles an hour (193 kph), the storm whipped the sea to inconceivable levels few people on Earth have ever witnessed. Few, except the six-man crew of the Andrea Gail, a commercial fishing boat headed towards its hellish center.
For more about The Perfect Storm and the The Perfect Storm Blu-ray release, see the The Perfect Storm Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on August 27, 2008 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Director: Wolfgang Petersen (I)
Writer: William D. Wittliff
Starring: George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Diane Lane, John C. Reilly, William Fichtner, John Hawkes
» See full cast & crew
The Perfect Storm Blu-ray Review
'The Perfect Storm' is not the perfect Blu-ray.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, August 27, 2008
It would be a disaster of epic proportions. It would be the perfect storm.
You just cannot go wrong with a Wolfgang Peterson film. He's not the best director out there, but he is one of the most consistent, and consistently good for that matter (unlike a Uwe Boll, for example, who is consistently bad). He has to his credit Das Boot, arguably the finest war movie of all time, the underrated Enemy Mine, the thrilling In the Line of Fire, Air Force One (Harrison Ford's entertaining final hurrah as a credible leading man), and Poseidon, perhaps his worst film but one that is still entertaining, ultimately saved by Kurt Russell because, well, like Peterson, you just cannot go wrong with Kurt Russell. Likewise, The Perfect Storm features a stellar ensemble cast of A-list stars and fantastic character actors. While the leads, including George Clooney (Leatherheads) and Mark Wahlberg (The Happening), are superb, it's the secondaries -- John C. Reilly (Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story), Diane Lane, Untraceable), Michael Ironside, (Starship Troopers), Mary Elisabeth Mastrantonio (The Abyss), and William Fichtner (Prison Break: Season Three), among others, that bring the film to vivid life. The Perfect Storm works well because it's a human drama first and a special effects extravaganza second, which sets it apart from other films like Twister, a fine film in its own right, but in a different sort of way. The films compliment one another well; both are natural-disaster, effects-heavy films from Warner Brothers, but one is more about its effects and the other more about its drama, and as such, each brings a unique cinematic experience to the table and both are equally worth watching, and owning, especially on Blu-ray.
Fishing is a way of life in Gloucester, Massachusetts. The city, as depicted in the film, is home to a fishing community that serves as its revenue stream and way of life for many residents. When the fish dry up, so to do the pocketbooks of many families. Veteran fishing boat captain Billy Tyne (Clooney) knows this all too well, and his men depend on his skills as a captain and instincts as a fisherman to reel in the big catches and keep the bills paid every month. When his ship, the Andrea Gail, returns with an underwhelming catch, much to the dismay of the ship's owner Bob Brown (Ironside), Tyne and his men return to sea for one last shot at bringing home a large catch before winter settles in. Tyne ventures further out to sea than he should to ensure a big catch for his crew, but Hurricane Gloria, a powerful category five hurricane dubbed "the perfect storm," forms behind them. When the ship's ice machine breaks down, the Gail has no choice but turn around and head home straight through the storm, or wait it out and lose the fish and their big payday. Tyne and his crew choose to face death head-on and risk their catch, their ship, and their lives to bring home a paycheck to help their families through the cold New England winter to come.
It takes awhile for The Perfect Storm to get going, about half an hour to be precise. There is nothing but exposition in the first quarter of the film, but this proves most effective through the remainder of the movie. It allows us to become familiar with the main characters, and a bond between audience and character is formed at this time. This bond is the foundation of the film and serves as the emotional springboard that catapults the film to the heights it reaches over the next 90 minutes. The Perfect Storm is, externally, a special effects film, but director Wolfgang Peterson realizes that it's the bond between man, and the bond between audience and character, that truly makes a movie. That's why his films work, especially his earlier films. In Das Boot, both the films enormous runtime and the miniscule space in which most of the film takes places creates a familiarity between audience and cast, and the camaraderie between the characters themselves is heightened because of the close confines they share. Likewise, very little of The Perfect Storm takes place outside the Andrea Gail or the tavern in town. With only two primary settings, the audience never feels lost, even in the vast sea, and the framework through which we see the characters remains consistent. In Enemy Mine, a film about brotherhood, Peterson makes the audience a third primary character in the film, and as enemies become companions, and as companions become friends, the audience shares in the journey and becomes emotionally invested in each character. In The Perfect Storm, the same is true, but on a larger scale. By film's end, we feel like a citizen of Gloucester, and the emotions of the film become nearly unbearable. This is fine work from a fine director. He walks the line between drama and special effects extravaganza well, framing the effects in the context of the story and remembering that people and emotions come first, rather than making them fit into the effects.
The Perfect Storm Blu-ray, Video Quality
The Perfect Storm sails onto Blu-ray with a somewhat disappointing but perfectly acceptable 1080p high definition transfer. Framed at 2.40:1, the transfer offers viewers a broad range of looks, from bright, sunny shots on the seaside to rainy and dark nighttime exteriors at sea. Both hold up well but each exhibit some flaws that, while never a distraction thanks in large part to the dramatic value of the film, don't allow for an eye-catching image. The transfer starts off looking nice with a natural, true-to-life outdoor tour through the piers and boats of Gloucester. Colors are sharp and rich and detail is generally nice. Softness becomes an issue in the transfer, though, and remains an issue throughout. Look at Bobby's Boston Red Sox cap and Billy's John Deere cap in chapter three. There is very little detail, and it looks more like a blob and a blur rather than a sharp and crisp object. These ball caps, and other items seen during the course of the film, look a bit better in a few scenes, but as a rule, detail is moderate at best and sharp edges and crystal-clear images are hard to come by. The image never jumps off the screen, coming across as one-dimensional and dull. There are no problems such as print anomalies, dirt, or other annoying abnormalities. Flesh tones are accurately rendered and black levels are fairly solid. The Perfect Storm offers viewers a decent transfer, but one that simply pales in comparison to the finest discs Blu-ray has to offer today.
The Perfect Storm Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The Perfect Storm's Dolby TrueHD 5.1 lossless surround sound track slams into Blu-ray with a sonic assault that brings the film to vivid life. Many scenes are fairly quiet, especially early dialogue scenes before the Gail sets sail yet again. Surround presence is minimal in these scenes. Atmospherics generally come from the front channels rather than both the front and back. The bar scene in chapter four features a nice presence across the front, but is quiet in the rears, failing to offer a truly realistic experience as ambient noise is nowhere to be heard across the rear. Dialogue itself seems slightly lower in volume than optimal. As expected, however, the track picks up once we're out to sea on the Gail. Atmospherics are excellent; we can hear the sound of the old boat creaking and rocking all around the soundstage to nice effect, effectively placing us on the ship. What's nice is that it's never too pronounced or distracting. The sound emanates from every speaker creating a nice ambience that just feels real, and the sound design is reserved yet effective in such scenes. The soundstage is full and powerful during the stormy action sequences, too. A rescue attempt via helicopter in chapter 21 is an entertaining and active listening experience. Surrounds are in full effect with the crashes of waves, rain, and helicopter rotors. The entire soundstage is drenched in action, the sound wide, full and loud without becoming distorted or a distraction from the action. The entire second half of the movie is thunderous, a case study in excellent use of powerful, robust, and incessant sound. It works well because these sounds are distinct and clear, yet retain a power and fear factor that effectively elevates the power and awe of the storm and the film it is depicted in. This is a fine track that will satisfy fans.
The Perfect Storm Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Warner Brothers brings The Perfect Storm to Blu-ray with a fairly comprehensive supplemental package. Viewers are treated to not one, not two, but three feature-length commentary tracks. The first track features director Wolfgang Peterson and it is hosted by DVD producer J.M. Kenny. Peterson discusses the realism he tried to put into the film, the influence of Sebastian Junger's novel of the same name, his fictionalization of the story for film while attempting to retain the reality of real-life events, discussing various computer-generated effects shots, the reactions of the family members of the people depicted in the movie, the emotional impact of the film on audience, cast, and crew, and the "cleansing" effect the film had on the real-life families. Track number two features visual effects supervisor Stefen Fangmeier and visual effects producer Helen Elswit. This film is called "middle class" or "MC" in the lexicon of the filmmakers, but this track is anything but. It's fairly technical in nature, as expected, but it is user- and layman-friendly. This duo discusses the effects in the context of the story, the seamlessness of the effects, the evolution of the effects vis-à-vis the evolution of the film itself, and more. The third track features Sebastian Junger, author of The Perfect Storm, the novel upon which the film is based. The best track on the disc (as author tracks so often make; see David Morrell's track on First Blood), Junger discusses the origins of his novel and the influences of the story, shares plenty of background on life in a fishing town, the history of the area, and what we know and do not know about the real-life events behind the story depicted in the filmed version of The Perfect Storm. If you have time for only one of these three tracks, choose Junger's.
HBO First Look Special: Creating 'The Perfect Storm' (480p, 19:56) is a solid making-of feature that touches on every aspect of the filmmaking, ranging from the true-life story behind the movie to filming on-location. The piece features interview clips with cast and crew, and author Sebastian Junger. Witness to the Storm (480p, 4:32) features interviews with several individuals who were witness to the storm as it hit Gloucester. Creating an Emotion (480p, 4:14) is a brief look at James Horner's powerful score and the humanism and emotion of the score as it plays in conjunction with the drama and emotion of the film. Next is Yours Forever (480p, 4:04), a series of still photographs from the film set to music from the movie. Concluding the supplemental materials are the film's theatrical trailer (1080p, 2:31) and an advertisement for the film's soundtrack (480p, 0:17).
The Perfect Storm Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The Perfect Storm is neither the perfect movie nor the perfect Blu-ray, but the movie and the Blu-ray are each effective in their own right. Wolfgang Peterson has created a fine film that puts drama and people first, drawing in his audience who not only ooh and ahh at the spectacle of the special effects and the sound, but become emotionally invested in the story and the characters therein. It is this combination that makes the film so effective and somewhat rare. Warner Brothers' long-awaited release of The Perfect Storm on Blu-ray was worth the wait. While the picture quality is not exactly demonstration-worthy, it's certainly acceptable and shouldn't bother anyone except for the most ardent picture quality critics. The audio is superb, as expected, and the supplemental materials are strong. The Perfect Storm on Blu-ray is well worth the current low price of $16.49 -- buy two and give one to a friend.
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The Perfect Storm Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Today on Blu-ray - July 22nd - July 23, 2008
Looks like I forgot to do this yesterday, so coming at you, albeit a little delayed, is a breakout of what came out on Blu-ray yesterday. This, of course,was a huge day for the format as we welcome Universal Studios to the family. Not surprising, the studio brought ...
• The Perfect Storm Announced for Blu-ray - April 9, 2008
Warner Home Video has announced that they will bring the action hit 'The Perfect Storm' to Blu-ray on July 22nd. This is the latest Warner title that was previously only available in high definition on the now dead HD DVD format, but is now going to be released ...
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