Wolfgang Petersen is obviously a director who seems to love using boats or making films that have tons of boats. We had his masterpiece Das Boot about submarines, this film, his film Troy about the Trojan War, and his most recent remake Poseidon about another doomed ship. Unlike the most recent two films, The Perfect Storm is a pure sensation rollercoaster ride from beginning to end. The film doesn’t even attempt to tell a long drawn out story, but rather a very simplistic story about the …vents surrounding this ‘perfect storm’ and how it deeply affected everyone around the town of Gloucester, regardless is you lost someone due to the storm.
Wolfgang Petersen’s 2000 vision of The Perfect Storm is based on the best-selling book by Sebastian Junger. The book and the film tells of the fishing ship named the Andrea Gail who, in 1991, in Gloucester, MA ran into the middle of a massive storm when three big storms collided in the middle of the Atlantic. The film tells us all about the economic pressures that the town goes through due to its sword-fishing industry. Instead of Petersen presenting the film about the men and their families, he decides to focus the entire film on this ship, and the oncoming storm. To add even more suspense to an already suspenseful card, Wolfgang decided to include the story about the family whose luxury boat was in distress.
The men of the Andrea Gail are Captain Billy Tyne (George Clooney), whose one goal is to catch the most fish, something that seems to be not happening this season as we can see this in his eyes. We have his crew Bobby Shatford (Mark Whalberg) who loves a mom played by Diane Lane; Murph (John C. Reilly), whose life has led to his divorce from his wife and child; Bugsy (John Hawkes); Alfred Pierre (Allen Payne), the typical character who chose this job for the money; and Sully (Willian Fichtner) who was a last minute addition to the Andrea Gail. All of these characters are never really developed enough to know little details about their personal lives, but that is not necessarily important. All the information that Petersen chose to give us is perfect as each character, through us simply watching the film, develops into some much, much more important than initially thought.
The best scenes in the film are simultaneously the sadness. We witness firsthand the true heroic nature of these simple men as they try to overcome this powerful storm. The film is obviously about these men and how they will try to overcome unseen forces. Captain Tyne, at one point, gets the call about the oncoming storm and that he is headed right into the storm. But Tyne and his crew, who have just caught one of the biggest catches ever (60,000 pounds of swordfish), decide to try to go through the storm, literally. As Billy tells his crew; “Either we hand out here, or stay the hell with it and drive right through.” What Billy and his crew don’t know is simply how massively large this storm truly is. A similar scene plays out like in Titanic as a simple ship, this time a little fishing boat, tries to warn the Andrea Gail about the oncoming danger. But the Andrea Gail’s antenna has been blow overboard meaning no more contact.
The film has a lot of special effects, but the special effects are not what make the film so important. What makes the film so important is how we can sit back and truly view the heroic nature of the crew of the Andrea Gail as they try to fight their way through this massive storm in their little boat, probably knowing they won’t come out of this alive. The Perfect Storm aimed to tell us the story of what it was like during of history’s worst recorded storms and it sunk a slam dunk as the film is action packed all while telling a truly heartful story.
As per the DVD release, The Perfect Storm maintains its 2:35:1 Widescreen Aspect Ratio. And as per the DVD release, The Perfect Storm looks absolutely amazing. Since a majority of the film takes place on the ocean, the vivid blues and grays of the oncoming ‘perfect storm’ are brought to brand new levels. Talk about imaginary scenery as it felt, maybe I had a headache though, like I could reach out and touch some of the huge waves that were exploding on the screen in front of me. The ocean scenery isn’t the only scenery that shines though, as the scenes that talk place on and around Gloucester are just as bright and natural. The actual flesh tones of the leading characters are great and seemed very real. This is the best HD-DVD release to date in relevance to the video department.
The standard Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 is one of the best tracks available on any HD release to date. Comparing this HD-DVD version of Storm to the DVD release, I found many, many improvements here. Most notably is the improvement that the sub balance was given. Take note of the final acts of the film as the sub, literally, doesn’t stop for minutes on end as it pounds and pounds as the characters are thrown from wave to wave. Dialogue is extremely clean and easy to understand and, unlike some releases, doesn’t suffer from the amount of power provided by the booming audio. Dynamics, as I mentioned above, are excellent. The sub gets an improvement while the subtle sounds of a ringing bell of the Andrea Gail to the booming thunder, sounds like an IMAX feature. Warner Brothers has finally created the perfect HD-DVD experience that is definitely a true definition of the capabilities of HD.
The only downside on this disc is the lack of any new features.
- Audio Commentary with Director Wolfgang Petersen and JM Kennedy: Petersen does a majority of the speaking here informing us about the making of the film and helps us to understand every little bit about the film.
- Audio Commentary with Sebastian Junger: Best-selling author Junger tells us all about his personal experience with the event being told. While the commentary track had a few gaps, I did enjoy listening to Junger as he was very informative when it came to giving us a lot of background information on the film.
- Audio Commentary with Visual Effects Supervisor Helen Elswitt: This is obviously the technical commentary track as Elswitt gives us all the little details behind the actual big wave and little events like the storm being re-produced.
- HBO First Look: This is a behind the scenes look into the history of the storm and the long-lasting effect it has had on this town. I absolutely loved this feature the first time I saw it on the DVD release and nothing has changed on the HD-DVD release. A lot of information is given about the cast and crew, which was a great help as no film can be made without a solid cast.
- Witness to the Storm: This brief feature gives us some interviews on those who lived through the storm and how it affected their lives.
- Creating an Emotion: This feature concentrates on composer James Horner and how he created the perfect themes and moods to display what was occurring on the big screen.
- Yours Forever: This is a series of still shots of the film that is played around the song ‘Yours Forever’ by John Mellencamp.
- Eye of the Storm: This is a series of storyboards focusing on three different scenes; “Shark Attack”, “Murph Overboard”, and “Helicopter Ditch”.
I’ve always enjoyed Petersen’s take on this ‘Perfect Storm’ from the day I saw it in theaters in June 2000. The film presents a great vision of a horrible event that featured many heroic citizens. The intense storm is brought to us in flawless fashion via the HD-DVD version. Even though none of the features are new, if you have to own ONE HD-DVD title, The Perfect Storm is the defining title to own.
Special Features List
- Audio Commentary with Director Wolfgang Petersen and JM Kennedy
- Audio Commentary with Sebastian Junger
- Audio Commentary with Visual Effects Supervisor Helen Elswitt
- HBO First Look
- Witness to the Storm
- Creating an Emotion
- Yours Forever
- Eye of the Storm