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THE PERFECT STORM

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Diane Lane, John C. Reilly, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio
Director: Wolfgang Petersen
Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1 EX, French Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Widescreen 2.35:1 Anamorphic Transfer
Studio: Warner Bros.
Features: See Review
Length: 130 Minutes
Release Date: November 14, 2000

Film ***1/2

The Perfect Storm is a grand illustration of pure craftsmanship, as displayed here by director Wolfgang Petersen. Petersen is a master at crafting adrenaline-pumping adventure movies, such as Air Force One and In the Line of Fire, and this film gives Petersen the opportunity to display the same kind of technique he used with is groundbreaking 1981 film Das Boot. This time, he tackles a mostly true account of a group of fishermen who set sail off the coast of Massachusetts, and encounter the most disastrous and violent storm on record. This resulted in a best selling novel by Sebastian Junger, which has now resulted in a truly enthralling movie.

The film opens with the group of fishermen, whose boat is called the Andrea Gail, returning home after a not so successful fishing haul. Desperate for bigger income, Billy Tyne (George Clooney) decides to head out once more, this time out pass the Grand Banks, and all the way to the Flemish Cap, which is off most of the fishing charts. At first, the fellow fishers are stunned by the spontaneous decision, but then again, they are all desperate for money, particularly crewmember Bobby Shatford (Mark Wahlberg), who is trying to start a life for him and his loving girlfriend Christina (Diane Lane). Tyne insists that this time, they will return with more fish than ever before. And so the Andrea Gail ships out once more. Although having gone through a few strong rainstorms, the fishermen encounter a truly big catch of fish, just like Tyne had promised. Then the real bad weather starts to come in.

The Perfect Storm is unique in so many ways, like the way it intercuts the Andrea Gailís plight with the storm with a parallel story involving an air and sea rescue team who attempt to rescue three passengers of a nearby sailboat. Petersen switches back and forth between the fishermen and the rescue team to create a unique feeling of tension.  Also unique are the filmís special effects, which becomes the star of the movie for the second hour, very much upstaging the actors. But unlike most special effects movies, this is one where the story drives the special effects rather than the other way around. Since the film is based on a true story, it would be rather difficult for the story not to drive the effects.

Numerous critics gave the movie negative reviews mostly back the lack of character development, but I think we get to know the characters quite well. They are developed perfectly to the point that we truly care about what happens to them in the end. The special effects donít really kick in until the second hour of the movie, so the audience is given a good hour to get to know the central characters. A good cast helps the movie deliver too. Itís nice to see George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg, fresh from Three Kings, to be working side by side again. They are both very believable in their roles.

But the real star of the movie is the stunning look that the film is given. The filmís early footage of the Andrea Gail sailing the sea is nothing short of awe inspiring. Then when the special effects kick in, it makes it more awe inspiring, and even majestic at times. The movieís end resulted in a mostly unexpected emotional response from me. It adds up to an all around involving thrill ride of a movie.

Video ****

The Perfect Storm is truly perfected in digital quality for DVD. This transfer was remarkable from start to finish. As expected, Warners has come through with another top of the line quality of a disc that is sharp and crisp for the entire viewing, with no grain detected. Be prepared to have you senses assaulted when the special effects emerge in the DVD format, because it is truly something to see, and even better than seeing it in the theater. 

Audio ****

Get ready to have a tidal wave in your living room! Not really, but the sound quality on The Perfect Storm will make it sound like so. The sound quality is given an extra boost this time around, as it is presented in 5.1 Dolby Digital EX Surround. Not only do the disaster scenes come through nice, but the filmís music and various background sounds are captured nicely too.

Features ****

An enormous tidal wave of extras to be sure! Warner has done it again; throwing everything they can but the kitchen sink. Included are three behind the scenes documentaries, 3 audio commentaries including one from Wolfgang Petersen, an Art Gallery with commentary by Petersen, a soundtrack photo montage, a storyboard gallery, and extras for DVD-Rom use.

Summary:

The Perfect Storm is a grand white-knuckle entertainment that is sure to glue you to your seat as you witness the unbelievable power of the true storm of the century.