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Warner Home Video presents

The Perfect Storm HD-DVD (2000)

Bobby: So what are you so happy about?Billy Tyne: You just caught me on a good night. I'm doing what I was made to do—and I've got a feeling I'm going to do it even better this time.- Mark Wahlberg, George Clooney

Stars: George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg
Other Stars: Diane Lane, John C. Reilly, William Fichtner, Karen Allen, Allen Payne, Bob Gunton, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio
Director: Wolfgang Petersen

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for language and scenes of peril
Run Time: 02h:09m:42s
Release Date: 2006-06-06
Genre: adventure

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- B+B-A B+


DVD Review

The DVD and Extras reviews are by Kevin Clemons.

I was all of 14 years old when the events depicted in The Perfect Storm took place in the confluence of Hurricane Grace with another storm and a Canadian cold front. I vaguely remember numerous news outlets claiming the late October 1991 event was "The Storm of the Century," and that there had never been another like it. Meteorologists called it "The Perfect Storm," an extremely unusual occurrence when three different fronts collide. Little was known about this natural event until journalist Sebastian Junger published his novel in 1997. While many thought Junger's book to be unfilmable, director Wolfgang Petersen proves these doubters wrong with this taut and enthralling film.

Focusing on the six-man crew of the fishing boat Andrea Gail, the story follows crewmen Bobby Shatford (Wahlberg), Dale Murphy (Reilly), David Sullivan (Fichtner), Bugsy Moran (Hawkes), Alfred Pierre (Payne), and Captain Billy Tyne (Clooney). The crew returns home with a light load of fish; the trip earns Tyne so little money that he decides to take to the sea one more time despite that it is the end of the season. The members of his crew complain, but agree because they need the paycheck. While the trip to the Flemish Cap yields a large number of fish, behind them bad weather is brewing and blocking their return home. When the icemaker fails they are faced with losing $250,000 worth of fish and their cut from it, so the crew decides to risk heading right into the storm. The only alternative is to wait out the storm, but this means losing the fish and the payday.

Even though I knew the fate of the Andrea Gail, it is to Petersen's credit that I found myself on the edge of my seat throughout. To say that the scenes showing the vessel's peril in the midst of the storm are intense is a vast understatement. Petersen does a fine job of building the tension as the film comes to a climax. The special effects are top notch with only a few moments of obvious CGI tampering. Director of photography John Seal shoots the visuals with an intentionally grayish tone; inside the boat during the storm is lighted so well that it feels as though you are in the boat with the crew. (Watch this in a darkened room for full effect.)

George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg, together again after Three Kings, share top billing as the captain and the rookie sailor. Clooney does a creditable job as Tyne, carrying the picture. He can turn on the charm with a smile, but also conveys a gritty and fierce determination as he tackles the weather head on. Wahlberg is also respectable as Shatford (although his accent comes and goes). As Shatford's love interest, Christina, Lane gives one of her best performances in years; she gives the picture a solid emotional center so that we're not just caught up in the effects. Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio gets a few key moments as a friendly rival captain who has a fondness for Tyne, and she solidly demonstrates her range from romantic dalliance to frenzied agitation and grief over Tyne's situation.

Petersen also gives the story a broader scope by intercutting various other stories impacted by the storm, such as the small boat Mistral caught in Hurricane Grace off Bermuda, and the crew of a Coast Guard rescue helicopter who find themselves in need of rescue as the storm worsens. Petersen always harnesses the effects to the story, keeping the characters up front at all times. The basic character outlines are quick sketches in some short scenes on land just before the ship heads out again, but they give us everything we need to know, ranging from humor to romance to pathos. In the midst of unbelievable hardship we also get to see the strong development of these characters. By the time we reach the end, the viewer feels as if he has shared their journey, and experienced the danger and exhilaration of both the fisherman's life and confrontation of the storm.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.40:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: While the SD-DVD transfer was state of the art in 2000, it looks somewhat shabby from six years' perspective. The HD transfer cures quite a lot of those problems, giving the film much better clarity on sequences both in the dockyard and at sea. The truly major improvement comes with the color, however. In particular, reds are much more vivid, and scenes that seemed almost monochromatic in the old transfer pop to life with color details. Intriguingly, on the SD-DVD nearly everyone seems to have the same color skin, but on the HD-DVD subtle differences are quite clear, with varying degrees of sunburn and tanning evident. Textures are also considerably better defined. Shots of the Andrea Gail against the sunset are downright breathtaking.

On the downside, there is some aliasing evident on the rigging of the ship, and general softness, making one suspect that the HD transfer may also date from 2000 and could possibly be from a 1080i master instead of a 1080p master. It doesn't quite have that window-like appearance that one expects from HD, and there seems to be some substantial room for improvement (hence the somewhat lower grade). But it absolutely renders the old transfer dispensable, especially where water (always difficult to compress for DVD) is concerned. Here, it comes to vivid life.

Image Transfer Grade: B-

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Spanishyes
Dolby Digital
English, Frenchyes

Audio Transfer Review: The HD-DVD has two English 5.1 tracks: one in Dolby Digital+ and one in Dolby TruHD. There are also a Dolby Digital+ 5.1 French track and a 2.0 Spanish track. The mix faithfully captures the brutal force of nature, pounding the viewer with wind and waves from every side. James Horner's sweeping score has a jaunty majesty mixed with a sense of dread, and it sounds fine, with good range and nice presence, particularly in the trombones. Highly effective on all counts, with plenty of LFE. The volume seems comparable to that on the standard DVD, so Warner has apparently remedied the low volume issues that affected their first HD-DVD releases.

Audio Transfer Grade:

Disc Extras

Animated menu
Scene Access with 39 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Documentaries
2 Featurette(s)
3 Feature/Episode commentaries by 1) director Wolfgang Peterson; 2) visual effects supervisors Helen Elswit and Stefen Fangmeier; and 3) author Sebastian Junger
Packaging: Elite
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Yours Forever montage
Extras Review: The extra materials are almost identical with those found on the standard DVD. They are presented here in either 480i or 480p standard definition.

Director Wolfgang Petersen provides the first of three commentary tracks, and it is not done in typical commentary style. Much as was the case for his track for his 1997 blockbuster, Air Force One, it is performed interview style. I like this format better than the traditional one simply because it flows better. There are very few pauses since the interviewer never lets the comments slow down.

The second track is by visual effect supervisors Helen Elswit and Stefen Fangmeier, and tends to be more technical in nature. I enjoy tracks with effects supervisors for the simple reason that I love finding little pieces of the background in a scene that are CGI. This track points out quite a few of those instances and also shows the hard work that went in to making the tidal waves.

My favorite commentary includes author Sebastian Junger describing his thoughts on the picture. This is most definitely worth a listen. Junger goes into great detail on his research for the novel and how he found out so much about the lives of the fishermen. There are a few moments where he lapses into silence, but for an overall view of the true events behind his story, it is not to be skipped.

The HBO First Look, Creating the Perfect Storm (:19m), is among the more interesting of such electronic presskits. With cast and crew interviews as well as with locals in Gloucester, MA, this provides a more informative than usual look behind the scenes.

Creating an Emotion shows composer James Horner writing the film's score, rehearsing and performing with the orchestra, and features interviews with Horner and Petersen. It is a fairly short (4m:14s) piece but it is still worth a look.

Witnesses to the Storm is another worthwhile documentary, featuring interviews with residents who lived in Gloucester at the time of the storm. While it's an important contribution (despite a brief 4m:32s running time), I would have also liked to have seen The Learning Channel special about the storm included on the disc.

The film's theatrical teaser is available in Dolby 2.0 sound. (While the back of the case advertises the trailer, it is only the teaser.) A montage of stills and clips featuring the song Yours Forever, as well as a soundtrack promo round out the extras. The HD-DVD is unaccountably missing the conceptual art and storyboard gallery found on the original release, so devotees will have a reason to hold onto the old disc as well.

Extras Grade: B+

Final Comments

The Perfect Storm admirably accomplishes what it sets out to do, and is certainly worth a rental at the least. The copious and thorough extra features make this all the better. Recommended.

Mark Zimmer 2006-06-07