- Jun 13, 2002
The Perfect Storm (Blu-Ray)
Studio: Warner Home Video
Rated: PG-13 (Language and scenes of peril)
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
HD Encoding: 1080p
HD Video Codec: VC-1
Audio: Dolby Digital TrueHD English 5.1; Dolby Digital English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Japanese 5.1EX
Subtitles: 14 different subtitle options.
Time: 130 minutes
Disc Format: 1 SS/DL Blu-Ray disc.
Case Style: Snap case
Theatrical Release Date: 2000
Blu Ray Release Date: July 22, 2008
George Clooney plays Capt. Billy Tyne, skipper of the Andrea Gail and based out of Gloucester, MA, who desperately wants a huge haul of fish for himself and his crew. He and his six crew members, among them Mark Wahlberg, John C. Reilly and William Fichtner, want enough swordfish to pay bills and make a decent life for themselves. They return home from a recent trip with diminished returns, especially next to Tyne’s rival, Linda Greenlaw (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio). Tyne makes the decision to do a quick turnaround and head back out, sailing for the Flemish Cap where he believes he will lure in untold amounts of fish. Unbeknownst to Tyne, there is a collision of a low pressure stream, a high pressure front and a hurricane heading right towards him; this collision of weather fronts is called “the perfect storm” due to its highly unusual and violent behaviour. Each of the crew members is leaving family and friends behind, but none is more fleshed out as the one with Wahlberg’s Bobby and his girl, Christina (Diane Lane). As the crew deals with personal issues they find they must work together if any of them want to survive this one great catch.
Based on the novel by Sebastian Junger, The Perfect Storm is in the precarious position of trying to finish a story that did not have a known ending. While many of the facts come through for probably the first 2/3 of the picture, the rest of it is conjecture. The picture was first released as a summer tent pole picture for Warner’s, and director Wolfgang Petersen takes what could have been a very interesting human drama and pushes it towards and action/ disaster flick. The script itself tries very hard to humanize these fishermen giving us a too brief set-up in Gloucester before we’re out to sea. Due to the Hollywood star power of the cast, each of them seems to be trying way too hard to nail their accents just right while producing a believable performance. Most of the performances come across as having been rescued from the cutting room floor of a lousy screen test, especially Lane and Mastrantonio, who at any point you just want to grab and slap them due to their over-exuberance of the material. Reilly and Fichtner (the latter of which is one of my favorite character actors) try their darndest to make something of their one dimensional characters, ultimately relying on Reilly’s beard and Fichtner’s biceps to carry their roles.
And then there’s the star, George Clooney, who is still gaining his sea legs in the brave new world he has entered, that of movie star. Clooney gives an average performance here, portraying Tyne as an un-thinking, dangerous rebel, putting the desire to be the best fisherman ahead of the lives of his crew. Since this movie is based on a true story, I really wish the bonus material had spent some time with Tyne’s family to discuss the real man and his passions. Clooney’s performance is fairly boring here, relegating the true acting chops to Wahlberg, of all people. As I said, this picture was a big summer picture in 2000 and I would have been really interested to see what type of picture would have been made for Oscar season instead.
Note: I am watching this title using a Marantz VP 11-S1 DLP projector, which has a native resolution of 1080p. I am using a Sony Playstation 3 Blu-Ray player while a Denon 3808CI does the switching and pass through of the video signal. I am utilizing the HDMI capabilities of each piece of equipment.
The Blu-Ray disc is in the VC-1 codec presented at 1080p with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. I have read that the HD-DVD that was released a couple years ago was in 1080i, where this Blu-ray is a remastered 1080p transfer. Color fidelity is good, but inconsistent, showing distinct differences between each of the actor’s skin tones in some scenes, but then leaving no differences in other scenes. The inconsistencies continue between the stage and CG work as compared to the location shots, with the latter looking far better in terms of detail and color fidelity. Detail is good throughout the picture, but at times this quality begins to show some of the limits of the CG effects at the time: digital bodies and water effects sometimes show their true natures. Sharpness is just slightly dull reminding us this is indeed film. Black levels are good throughout, but better in the practical sets than in the CG environments. I noticed no edge enhancement, and a couple very minor instances of print dirt. I was checking on the bit meter during the picture and it hangs in the teens, peaking just above 21Mbps, so the encode itself didn’t utilize the format to its full potential.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack was attained by the HDMI connection of the Sony Playstation 3 to the Denon 3808CI.
I watched the feature with the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track engaged. Anyone who has seen this film theatrically or on previous DVD knows what an incredibly active sound mix is presented. This is carried over here providing us with an exceptional surround field driven continuously by the 5.1 channels. It takes a bit for the film to get going, but once the boat sets sail it rarely lets up. Balance is good between all the channels and the mix exhibits some excellent panning effects. LFE’s come to life often with great impact while not becoming overbearing. Wind and rain pummel the boat, and in turn, the viewer leaving me wanting to wring out my clothes when it was over. The soundtrack lacks some of the dynamics we are more accustomed to now (it could improve with a little more sweetening to the highs), but it is still and excellent surround track.
Bonus Material: all of these pieces are in SD.
There are three different commentaries on this BD, and while it does seem a bit like overkill, there is enough material to keep each one going. All of the materiel from the HD-DVD and DVD releases is brought over to this disc.
Commentary by Director Wolfgang Petersen (as moderated by J.M. Kenny): Petersen does an excellent job of crediting the work of ILM while not commenting too much on his actors, going to show me where his head was in the production of this movie. He does spend some time discussing the remaining family and friends of the Andrea Gail, and he is quite reverent in the process. This is a good and broad commentary detailing the bigger picture, allowing the following two commentaries to drill down into the details.
Commentary by author Sebastian Junger: Junger provides the most in depth account of the characters, the story and the science behind it. He explains where and why certain narrative liberties were taken to make it a more cohesive picture. Junger does a great job of filling in the gaps to make you appreciate the characters better.
Commentary by Visual Effects Supervisor Stefen Fangmeier and Visual Effects Producer Helen Ostenberg Elswit: the two go through the whole picture, in shot by shot detail explaining how and why ILM used certain effects. This was the first picture that utilized a convincing water effects as well as really testing the limits of CG effects, so this commentary can be interesting from a historical perspective. I usually want to see what the subjects are talking about when the explain what they did in certain scenes, and this was a missed opportunity to use the BD-live ability of the format.
HBO Firstlook: Creating The Perfect Storm (19:56): as is expected with these pieces, there is a quick and general discussion of the story, the cast and the effects. Most of the primaries are interviewed here, but again, the piece centers on the effects.
Witness to the Storm (4:32): an all too brief piece about the real crew told by those who knew them and still live and work the industry.
Creating an Emotion: James Horner at Work (4:04): this fluff piece turns the spotlight on Horner, his thoughts on the story and how they contributed to the music.
Yours Forever Photo Montage (4:04): a photo montage set to the love theme of the movie.
Trailers: the theatrical trailer is in HD, and then there is a second “trailer” for the soundtrack in SD.
The movie itself leaves me cold, with weak performances by most of the cast and an over reliance on the effects. The disc itself provides us with fine new 1080p master and a highly dynamic soundtrack. The three commentaries, while just slightly overkill, give us a balanced view of these separate pieces contribute to the whole of the picture.