The Perfect Storm

"The Perfect Storm" on Blu-ray Disc

Making Waves

It's Halloween, 1991. Near Gloucester, Massachusetts. the six members of the swordfishing boat Andrea Gail head out to sea for their last trip of the season - a makeup voyage they hope will fill the ship's hold with enough fish to make up for their previous lousy showing, and tide them over till the next trip in the new year..

But a set of brutal storms is slowly gaining steam out there on the unforgiving ocean and before the National Weather Bureau or anyone else has a chance to inform the crew of the impending danger, it's too late.

The resulting battle with the three merging weatherfronts - creating "the perfect storm" - is makes for a grueling and tragic tale of the sea.

Based on the true-life novel by Sebastian Junger, Wolfgang Petersen's "The Perfect Storm" looked from its billing and commercials like just another special effects romp.

It isn't. Oh, sure, the effects are spectacular and the action's first rate - but there's a lot more to this movie than just "the perfect storm."

The movie begins in the fishing town of Gloucester, as the boats return home from their latest dangerous trek to the Grand Banks to bring back whatever they can of the dwindling supply of fish stock.

The Andrea Gale is one of these boats, a swordfisher, under the stewardship of George Clooney, a man born to the job of fishing captain. It was a lousy trip, though, and despite the lateness of the season and the potential danger of messing with the unpredictable autumn weather, he decides to take his crew out for one last trip to see if they can bring in enough fish to take the pressure off him from higher up in the company.

Reluctantly - extremely reluctantly - his crew agrees to head out with him, farther than they've ever ventured before.

Then fate, in the guise of Mother Nature steps in, and the movie goes from an interesting and heartwarming drama to a roller coaster ride par excellence. You'll want to have plenty of popcorn handy.

It's the "interesting and heartwarming drama" aspect of "The Perfect Storm" that really make this movie something special. You get a feel for these people, their loved ones, and the lives they all lead. It's a fascinating look at a part of society about whom we've all heard, but very few have actually experienced. You grow to understand the risks these fishermen face in their little ships on a limitless ocean, the pride they have in their chosen calling, and their unbelievable strength and guts.

There's an interesting subplot involving the US Coast Guard trying to rescue a family yacht caught farther south in the storm that's at least as exciting as the main story of the heavily-laden Andrea Gale trying to plow its way back home. We don't know how much of the tale is true (the story is "based on a true story"), but it certainly portrays these military men as ultra-professional, outrageously brave, and supremely duty bound.

It's doubly nice to see in an era when Hollywood seems to prefer portraying the U.S. military as baby killers and whackos.

We were disappointed in the ending of the movie, but shan't spoil it for you here.

Audio and video quality of the Blu-ray are excellent. The t080p widescreen picture is full of great shots with real depth, and the detail and colors are outstanding. Not all shots are reference quality, but there are many.

The Dolby TrueHD audio track is a tad low for our liking, but crank it a bit more and it makes you feel a part of the action at times, which is exactly the opposite of where you'd really want to be in real life! And thank God for widescreen. We pity the people who still watch movies on pan&scan VHS because they'll surely miss some of the unbelievable shots of the gigantic waves moving in and away from the center of the action.

Extras abound on "The Perfect Storm" BLu-ray as well. There are three behind the scenes documentaries of varying quality, three feature length commentaries (director Petersen, author Junger and visual effects supervisor Stefen Fangmeier with FX producer Helen Ostenberg Elswit), a photo montage and the trailer.

We went into "The Perfect Storm" hoping for a great disc, since we'd been so impressed by the DVD. We were not disappointed.

The Perfect Storm, from Warner Home Video
130 minutes, 1080p Widescreen (2.4:1), Dolby TrueHD
Starring George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Diane Lane, William Fichtner, Karen Allen, Allen Payne, Bob Gunton, and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio.
Produced by Paula Weinsten, Wolfgang Petersen and Gail Katz
Written by Bill Wittliff, Directed by Wolfgang Petersen

Jim Bray's columns are available from the TechnoFile Syndicate.

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