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The Perfect Storm

There's a conundrum at the heart of The Perfect Storm. When the swordfishing boat Andrea Gail set sail in October 1991 from Gloucester, Mass., nobody knew that it was riding into the storm of the century. There were no survivors among its six-man crew. Its last radio communication was quite early in the proceedings. No one knows what happened on that ship! In his book, Sebastian Junger speculates only cautiously. Junger's book is about the effects of disaster. But The Perfect Storm is a disaster film. We're talking a manly cast, special effects, and most of all an action-filled story. So what do the filmmakers do? They make it all up. OK, not entirely. In addition to the fictional scenes on the Gail, director Wolfgang Petersen and screenwriter Bill Wittliff seem to hew faithfully to the facts the book recounted — the living situations of the crew members and their mates and ex-mates, and the various rescue missions that were conducted parallel to the Gail's travails. The crew of the Andrea Gail is led by one Billy Tyne (George Clooney). He's had a run of bad luck at sea. Frustrated, Tyne decides to take his crew out again after only a few days in port. They consist of Bobby Shatford (Mark Wahlberg), Sully (William Fichtner), Murph (John C. Reilly), and two others. In addition, a rich guy (Bob Gunton) is cruising down the coast to the Bahamas, with a crew of two women (Karen Allen, Cherry Jones), eventually requiring a rescue helicopter. Meanwhile, the hexed Gail crew also faces the storm. You'd think that no one would want to see a film about failure and loss, and if little is known about what happened on that ship, into the vacuum the filmmakers pour a series of clichés and predictable disasters, such as people falling overboard all the time. Two crew members are fighting about something but it's never made clear just what their dispute happens to be. The crew pulls a shark on board. All this is ultimately unnecessary prelude to the big storm. But despite some drawbacks, The Perfect Storm ends up being a fairly good movie. The storm scenes are excellent, with barely a visible difference between CGI and real water. The cast is all-around dependable. And Warner has packed this disc to the gills with almost everything you could possibly want. In addition to an error-free anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) and audio in fantastic Dolby Digital 5.1, the supplements include a commentary from director Petersen, a second commentary with visual-effects supervisors Stefen Fangmeier and Helen Elswit, a third commentary by author Junger, an HBO "First Look" featurette (that's one of the best in this otherwise bogus genre), a four-minute featurette of video footage, a four-minute featurette that focuses on James Horner's score, a segment on the conceptual art for the film narrated by Petersen, a photo montage with music and dialogue excerpts, a lengthy storyboard gallery, cast and crew notes, and DVD-ROM features. Snap-case.
—D.K. Holm

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