The Perfect Storm DVD

Anyone who lives near the ocean knows and understands its power and seduction. The sea is a mighty mistress, one who demands total respect. Cross her and she can be unrelenting in her ferociousness. Respect her, and she can open up the world to anyone willing to take advantage of her riches.


perfect_storm_dvd_coverThe fishermen in “The Perfect Storm” are in love with the sea. They may have wives and lovers back home standing on the dock of the bay, but their real passion is the sea. It not only provides them with a living, it empowers them. It makes them feel alive, giving them a connection between man and Mother Nature.

Mother Nature tries to severe that connection in “The Perfect Storm,” a film of awesome power and scope that sweeps you into an impossible situation and forces you to face your fears. Based on Sebastian Junger’s popular page-turner, “The Perfect Storm” pits man against one of the most unimaginable forces on the face of the earth. It’s the true story of the Andrea Gail, her crew of Gloucester, Massachusetts fishermen, and their struggle to survive a 1991 Halloween storm.

Screenwriter Bill Wittliff does an admirable job of bringing Junger’s book to the screen, fleshing out the story and relegating the technical talk to sound bites rather than whole passages. There’s also strength in Wolfgang Petersen’s claustrophobic direction, allowing us to get up close (but not so personal) with the characters.

As a critic, I want to fault the film for its sketchy character development, but I also understand audiences have come to see six men take on the storm of the century, not sit around and tell tall tales in a bar. Which is why Wittliff’s screenplay only gives us enough information to individualize the characters before sending them off on the adventure of a lifetime.

George Clooney is sturdy as Andrea Gail Captain Billy Tyne, facing a financial crisis if he can’t bring back one good load of swordfish. Clooney brings us into Tyne’s life, showing us a man forced to make tough, sometimes dumb, decisions out of desperation. He’s not alone.

It’s been a slow season, and the rest of Tyne’s crew are more than eager for one last shot at redemption. Mark Wahlberg is good as Bobby Shatford, a divorced man who has the lovely Christine Cotter (Diane Lane) waiting back at home for him. John C. Reilly brings depth to seasoned sailor Murph, still hurting from the separation from his wife and son, and newcomer David Sullivan (William Fichtner), who shows an instant dislike towards Murph. The crew also includes John Hawkes as lovelorn Bugsy and Allen Payne as Alfred Pierce, a Jamaican Lothario.

After introducing the men and their respective’s in a seaside dive named the Crow’s Nest (where the locals gather after a hard days work to get smashed), the men of the Andrea Gail set sail. Their destination is the Flemish Cap, a treacherous, remote area that is rich with swordfish. It’s a dream come true for Tyne and his men, who fill their boat with enough fish to pay the bills and then some.

The nightmare comes when their freezer breaks down, forcing the men to make a run for home before their cargo spoils. The broken freezer is the least of their worries. Brewing between the Andrea Gail and port are three storm systems, which are about to collide to create one of the most devastating storms in memory.

The director of “Air Force One” and “Das Boot” does an excellent job of creating a constant sense of foreboding, which pays off with one of the most breathtaking storm sequences ever created for film. This isn’t a wimpy Dino De Laurentiis “Hurricane” storm, but a full-blown maelstrom of towering waves, powerful winds and torrential rain. They all combine to create a digitally created monster that works overtime to engulf the characters.

Indeed, once the men of the Andrea Gail meet “The Perfect Storm,” the film becomes a white knuckle experience. The action scenes are constant and gripping, leaving you weak and exhausted. Thrown into the mix are a private yacht, a nerve-racking helicopter rescue (alone worth the price of admission), and plenty of concerned folk on the circumference of the storm.

These include a concerned Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, a rival fishing captain who serves as the crew’s beacon of light; Rusty Schwimmer as the focus of Bugsy’s affections; and the always engaging Lane.

The filmmakers know that people came to see the wave, the one featured in the preview and at the end of the film. To that point, they move things along very nicely. Richard Francis-Bruce’s razor sharp editing is seamless, lending emphasis to every one of director of photography John Seale’s meticulously framed and lit shots. It’s a perfect marriage of image and editing.

The film sinks or swims on its special effects, and they are buoyant. Visual effects supervisor Stefen Fangmeier and his staff do an impressive job of dropping us into the middle of the action. The blend of studio tank effects and digital enhancements is perfect. If you suffer from sea sickness, beware.

Petersen and Seale keep things nice and tight, so you always feel like something is going to explode. Wittliff’s script is extremely serviceable, providing just enough chit-chat and pre-storm close calls (including a fishing hook incident) to get the audience pumped up for the big payoff. When it comes, they won’t be disappointed. Except for stronger character development, “The Big Storm” provides the bang for the buck.

COMPLETE CHECK-UP

VISION: 20/20

check.gif (406 bytes) 2.35:1 Widescreen

check.gif (406 bytes) 16:9 Enhanced

Beautifully rendered widescreen digital transfer brings all of the thrills of the theatrical experience home. The images are sharp and vibrant, with good attention to detail. No noticeable scratches or artifacts. Instead, you get beautiful colors, sharp calibration and no spill over or bleeding. Flesh tones are absolutely stunning, while blacks and whites are clean and strong. Earth tones, including various shades of blue, are authentic. Depth of field is amazing, going on forever. An outstanding effort all around.

HEARING: Excellent

check.gif (406 bytes) 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround EX

check.gif (406 bytes) 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround French Language

The soundtrack will blow you away with its strong basses, thoroughly impressive dialogue mix and surround effects that literally dump you in the middle of the action. Stereo splits are extreme, providing perfect surround mix. Basses are booming, while middle and high ends are clean and impressive. Front sound field is strong with noticeable stereo direction, while rear speakers come alive with ambient noise and musical cues. The front-to-rear stereo is also quite impressive, providing a real sense of motion and movement. No noticeable hiss or distortion.

ORAL: Excellent

check.gif (406 bytes) Closed Captions in English for the Hard of Hearing

check.gif (406 bytes) Subtitles in French

COORDINATION:

Warner Home Video once again lays on the extras, with more than enough supplements to keep any video enthusiast busy for hours.

check.gif (406 bytes) Not one, not two, but three full-length audio commentaries, featuring a wide range of talent:

check.gif (406 bytes) DIRECTOR WOLFGANG PETERSEN, who discusses the struggles of filming on the ocean and the devotion of the cast and crew to maintain the integrity and dignity of the actual event.

check.gif (406 bytes) AUTHOR SEBASTIAN JUNGER

check.gif (406 bytes) VISUAL EFFECTS SUPERVISOR STEFEN FANGMEIER and VISUAL EFFECTS PRODUCER HELEN OSTENBERG ELSWIT.

Three documentaries:

check.gif (406 bytes) HBO FIRST LOOK: THE PERFECT STORM: An extensive behind-the-scenes documentary that takes viewers from the studio to the actual locations, and provides insights from the filmmakers and performers. There’s lots of special effects footage here, including scenes of the dump tank constructed and used for the film.

check.gif (406 bytes) WITNESS TO THE STORM: Featuring recollections of the actual event.

check.gif (406 bytes) CREATING AN EMOTION: Listen and watch as composer James Horner creates the stirring score for the film.

check.gif (406 bytes) A photo montage of scenes from the film set against John Mellencamp’s theme song, “Yours Forever.”

check.gif (406 bytes) A conceptual art gallery with commentary by the director

check.gif (406 bytes) Storyboard galley

check.gif (406 bytes) Theatrical Trailers

check.gif (406 bytes) Cast & Filmmaker bios and filmographies

check.gif (406 bytes) Incredible motion active main and scene access menus.

check.gif (406 bytes) DVD-ROM features, including more theatrical trailers and on-line events, plus more documentary footage on the pre-visualization of the film’s set pieces.

PROGNOSIS: Excellent

check.gif (406 bytes) The crew of the Andrea Gale may have been doomed, but the DVD of the film lives on with a bounty of great extras.

VITALS:

$24.99/Rated PG-13/130 Minutes/Color/39 Chapter Stops/Snapcase

ATTENDING RESIDENT: John Larsen

PATIENT: THE PERFECT STORM

BIRTH DATE: 2000

HMO: Warner Home Video



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