The Perfect Storm

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Details At A Glance

Category Drama Main Menu Audio and Animation
Listing - Cast and Crew
Audio Commentary - Wolfgang Petersen (Director)
Audio Commentary - Sebastian Junger (Author)
Featurette - HBO First Look: Creating The Perfect Storm (19:57)
Featurette - Witness To The Storm (4:35)
Featurette - Creating An Emotion (4:16)
Featurette - Conceptual Art with Director's Commentary (9:58)
Featurette - Yours Forever Photo Montage (4:06)
Theatrical Trailer - 1.85:1, 16x9, Dolby Digital 2.0 (1:22)
Trailer - Soundtrack Promo (0:19)
Storyboard Gallery
DVD-ROM Extras
Year Released 2000
Running Time 124:31 minutes
RSDL/Flipper RSDL (67:26)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region 2,4 Director Wolfgang Petersen
Warner Bros
Warner Home Video
Starring George Clooney
Mark Wahlberg
Diane Lane
William Fichtner
Karen Allen
Allen Payne 
Bob Gunton
Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio
John C Reilly 
Case Transparent Amaray
RPI $36.95 Music James Horner

Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English (Dolby Digital 5.1, 384 Kb/s)
German (Dolby Digital 5.1, 384 Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192 Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192 Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
Macrovision Yes Smoking Yes
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
German for the Hearing Impaired
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

Plot Synopsis

    In October 1991, a meteorological rarity of nature occurred when Hurricane Grace, heading north from Bermuda, met an intense low pressure system heading south from the Arctic Sea and a cold front heading east from across Canada. These three distinctly different weather patterns met and merged somewhere near The Grand Banks in the Atlantic Ocean. The result is what is known as The Perfect Storm, an event unprecedented in recorded history. The resultant Force 12 gale was to unleash itself in a venting of fury over the Atlantic Ocean and towards the coast of New England.

    The fishing port of Gloucester, Massachusetts, just north of Boston, is one of the oldest fishing ports in the United States and can trace its history to around 1623. Since that time, around ten thousand men have lost their lives fishing the Atlantic Ocean. Not only did the fishing port feel the full brunt of the storm but that fateful day in October 1991 was to add another six men to that tally when the fishing boat Andrea Gail was caught in the full fury of the storm out on the fishing grounds, heading back to port with a hold full of swordfish. The seventy foot fishing boat had little chance in the wild seas with waves running to a massive one hundred feet or more in height.

    The Perfect Storm is the story of that fateful trip of October 1991 when the Andrea Gail headed out to sea for one last shot at a major haul of swordfish before the worsening storms of winter stopped the fleet for several months.

    The fishing ports of the Northeast United States send a lot of fishing boats out to the fishing grounds of the Atlantic Ocean for months at a time. The two main fishing areas are the Grand Banks of Newfoundland and the more distant Flemish Cap. Both are on the very edge of the continental shelf and the ocean bottom drops off enormously from them. In summer they present a reasonably tranquil fishing area, but as the winter storms approach they present an area of great treachery. The Andrea Gail had gone as far as the Flemish Cap in search of fish, about 1,200 miles from Gloucester. It was attempting to return to port when it was caught in The Perfect Storm. Whilst no one really knows for sure what happened out there near The Grand Banks, the best guess is that the boat headed straight into the absolute middle of the storm and all hell broke loose. If you have ever suffered a Force 10 gale, you may well have an idea of what the six men on the Andrea Gail endured before she finally succumbed to the elements. I once had the unfortunate experience of suffering a Force 10 gale in the Southern Ocean on an ocean liner which came within a half a degree of list of capsizing and would never want to experience it again. Imagine if you can a Force 12 gale with waves running one hundred feet and more on a similar swell, winds gusting to a hundred miles an hour, and worse - nature at its absolute, awesome worst. They left port two weeks earlier in virtually perfect conditions and were despatched to the bottom of the ocean in a display of power never before recorded in history.

    This is the basically true story that is told here by Wolfgang Petersen, based upon the book by Sebastian Junger. It is the story of the six men aboard the Andrea Gail - skipper Bill Tyne (George Clooney), Bobby Shatford (Mark Wahlberg), Dale Murphy (John C Reilly), Michael Moran (John Hawkes), Alfred Pierre (Allen Payne) and David Sullivan (William Fichtner) - and what they endured, as well as a story about the family and friends they left behind in Gloucester. But in the very grandest sense, it is a tribute to those brave persons who daily head out to sea in search of fish, often for months at a time, not really certain that they will return. It is a powerful story and to succeed requires a rare combination of great performances, terrific effects and great direction.

    It succeeds.

   A lot of filming was actually done in Gloucester and many of the local community actually contributed actively to the film. The actors had in some cases the opportunity to meet the people they play in the film - they had the chance to meet the friends and family of the missing fishermen and in the extreme case of Mark Wahlberg, even spent time living above the bar depicted in the film! You can be assured that what you see here is about as authentic as can be. The fishing boat used to portray the Andrea Gail for instance is a sister ship known as the Lady Grace. About the only thing that is not authentic here are the actual swordfish - no actual live fish were used in the film. They are all either animatronic or rubber facsimiles...not that you would notice the difference without being told. It is rare that a film has production values as high as these, and the result is a film that is utterly believable. Even the special effects, both very large and very small, more than hold their own. The potential for very iffy effects was huge here, as anyone who has seen a film involving lots of water will readily attest to. Apart from a couple of minor instances, in general the work from the masters at Industrial Light and Magic is quite superb and you never really know where the live action ends and the effects start.

   Good story, great performances, great special effects and great direction all add to make a film that generally lives up to its hype. Even though we know what the result of the film is, even down to the climatic scene being given away by the main menu and front slick cover (not a great move by Warners I might add), this is so well put together that it still manages to sustain the full two hour length. Sure some of it is a bit incredulous - just check out the scene of Tyne climbing out on the gantry to cut the drogue chain in the middle of the storm - but that is easily forgiven with the general pacing of the story and film. Whilst I would be loathe to call it a superb film, it is yet another worthy inclusion in the filmography of Wolfgang Petersen.

    The Perfect Storm is well worth seeking out.

Transfer Quality


    With a film so utterly dependent upon water and special effects, a fine transfer is necessary to ensure that the whole film does not come over as a wet rag. This is certainly a damn good transfer and barring a few consistent problems, certainly does aid the film no end.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and it is 16x9 enhanced. This is very close to the theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1.

    And just exactly how do you say sharp and detailed? Try The Perfect Storm. With all the emphasis on water and storms in the film, I have to confess that I was sort of expecting a lot of iffily focused shots and blurry details. I need not have worried, as this is a generally very sharp transfer with no loss of sharpness throughout the course of the film. There is nothing here in the way of distracting edge enhancement either, which is another big bonus as the whole thing still looks very natural. However, the truly impressive thing in this transfer is the detail and even when the waves really get rolling, there is still an incredible amount of detail in the storm, and every breaking wave top and white streak in the broiling sea is clear and contributes to one of the best examples of background detail that I have seen recently in film. Obviously this all requires a gorgeously clear transfer to make the detail shine and that is what we get here, with nary a hint of grain to be concerned about. Shadow detail is very good indeed, and the people at Industrial Light and Magic should take some kudos here for how much detail can be seen in all the storm scenes. There is no low level noise problem here.

    Let's see - lots of water and a huge storm. Not much in the way of colour here right? Well, almost right. You would not be too surprised by the lack of colour for the second half of the film since it is in a huge storm and deep ocean water would have only one colour - dark, dark green to reflect the dark clouds. However, that is not to say that some nice bright colours don't get a run here and the first half of the film really looks a treat with plenty of natural colour giving a really vibrant look. It may not be a kaleidoscope of colour but what we get is very fine indeed and certainly has a very natural feel. Nothing in the way of oversaturation or colour bleed affects this transfer in any way.

    The one main problem with the transfer, and to be honest about the only problem with the transfer, is a tendency towards some minor aliasing in the transfer. This mainly affects things like fishing lines and so on, and whilst it is by no means a really noticeable and annoying problem, it is just a little too obvious on a couple of occasions to completely ignore. Other than that there are no MPEG artefacts in the transfer, there are no other film-to-video artefacts and this is an almost pristine transfer as far as film artefacts are concerned.

    This is an RSDL formatted DVD with the layer change coming at 67:26. It is just a little noticeable as there is a slight pause in the music as the layer change is navigated. Overall though, not too bad and not really disruptive to the flow of the film.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-to-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    Do you like beautifully immersive soundtracks? You are going to love this soundtrack.

    There are four soundtracks on the DVD, being an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, a German Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, and two English Audio Commentaries in Dolby Digital 2.0 surround encoded soundtracks. The only thing I did not check out was the German soundtrack. The English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack may be an EX soundtrack, although this is not confirmed. Whilst the packaging makes no reference to it being so, the promotional blurb for the DVD certainly does. Unfortunately PowerDVD does not support EX at this time and only reports this as being plain old 5.1. If any one has definite confirmation of this being an EX soundtrack, we would sure appreciate hearing from you.

    The dialogue was wonderfully clear and easy to understand, although of course with a Force 12 gale running at full steam there are naturally times when the sound effects dominate the dialogue. There was no indication of any audio sync problems at all.

    I suppose that if one is making a nautical film nowadays, it is perfectly logical to get James Horner to write the music. I generally have not had a huge regard for his work, which I tend to find quite banal and repetitive. This film must have inspired him as the resultant score, whilst in my opinion still not a marvel, is certainly a wonderfully supportive effort that really adds to the drama of the film no end. The end result is also something that is not quite so obviously from James Horner, which is a really big plus in my view.

    Where to start with this superb soundtrack is the question. If you want reference quality audio demonstration, then this is the baby you want. Whilst it might not be the flashiest audio soundtrack you have ever heard, the second half of the film provides you with some of the best use of rear surround channels you will ever hear. There are chunks of great ambience in the rear channels with wind and waves competing against each other, the occasional input from the struggling engine in the boat and assorted other delicacies to behold. This is well worth cranking up just a little, just to hear how good great surround channel use can be.

    Surprisingly, the bass channel has been quite subtly used here so that the bangs and crashes are not over-resonant nightmares, but rather wonderfully natural-sounding. The bass kicks in very nicely to support the crashing waves in a beautifully rumbly way, but even when called upon to be really dramatic and dynamic it does so in a magnificently supportive manner. The first half of the film, which is comparatively quiet in just about every way, features a much more frontal sound that befits the more dialogue-driven nature of the film (although it does get lively in the bar scenes), but the totally enveloping second half of the film is a joy to hear. There is nothing at all wrong with the soundtrack here and you will rarely hear anything as good or better than this.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    Every so often, Warners really excel themselves with a package of extras, and this is one of those occasions. No flashy banner proclaiming Collector's Edition status here, but it sure as heck is a Collector's Edition.


    There is a rather longish sequence of animation with excellent audio accompaniment leading into the main menu of the film and the quality continues from there. The menus are all 16x9 enhanced and from the outset this gives the impression that this is a title that Warners have invested a lot of time (and money) in.

Listing - Cast and Crew

    This is perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the package. Whilst I am guessing that the reason is lack of space, a plain cast and crew listing is not an acceptable substitute for full biographies, especially for a cast and crew as talented as the one assembled for this film.

Audio Commentary - Wolfgang Petersen (Director) with J. M. Kenny

    So I hate these things right? So how bad was this one? It was not. This is a fine example of an audio commentary, with J. M. Kenny taking the lead in an interview-style commentary. He asks some well thought out questions and gets some terrifically informed answers from Wolfgang Petersen that adds enormously to the understanding of the film. Whilst not always screen-specific, there is a ton of additional information here that covers a whole range of topics, not the least of which is how the special effects both big and small are so important to the film. If all commentaries were as good as this one, I would perhaps be a much more staunch advocate of them.

Audio Commentary - Sebastian Junger (Author)

    Something very different here too, with the author filling in a lot of background information about the story. Whilst not a native of Gloucester, he was living in the town at the time of the storm and thus has a lot of personal insights into the storm's effect. Whilst it is not the most fluid of commentaries, and I have to confess that I have not listened to it in its entirety, from what I heard this is another good commentary.

Featurette - HBO First Look: Creating The Perfect Storm (19:57)

    Your typical twenty minute HBO special about the making of the film that we have become quite familiar with. This one is a little bit special as it actually includes interviews with the real people of Gloucester, including the ilk of Linda Greenlaw, the sole female swordfish boat captain. It was quite interesting to see her meeting Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio who played her in the film. Presented in a Full Frame format (apart from the film extracts) with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound, it is not 16x9 enhanced. It does get very grainy at times, but the content more than compensates in this case.

Featurette - Witness To The Storm (4:35)

    This is a regrettably far too short collection of interviews with residents of Gloucester from the storm period, as well as some video footage shot from the Hannah Boden (sister ship to the Andrea Gail) during the actual storm. It is difficult to imagine the impact of the storm upon their lives, but this at least makes an attempt. Also presented in a Full Frame format with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound, it is not 16x9 enhanced. Apart from being too short, very interesting.

Featurette - Creating The Emotion (4:16)

    After a couple of decently different featurettes, I suppose we have to accept the one rather blatantly electronic press kit style of effort. This is about the creation of the score and features mainly interview material with James Horner. I cannot say that this reaches the heights of the previous two efforts but is reasonably interesting in its own way. It is presented in a Full Frame format., it is not 16x9 enhanced and comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.

Conceptual Art - with commentary from Wolfgang Petersen (9:58)

    Another rather different presentation. In order to get a feel for how to shoot the film and to create a look for the film, the director had an artist paint up a number of paintings to illustrate some ingredients of the film. A selection of these are presented here with a commentary form the director candidly detailing what they were trying to achieve. Surprisingly they are presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and are 16x9 enhanced. The commentary is in Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. An interesting inclusion.

Yours Forever - Photo Montage (4:06)

    This is a collection of stills from the film and some photos taken during the filming, presented to the accompaniment of John Mellencamp singing the theme song of the film Yours Forever. Whilst the lack of annotation is regrettable, this is a refreshing way of presenting a bunch of photos. The presentation is in a Full Frame format which is not 16x9 enhanced and with the song coming in Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. The song is pretty good too.

Theatrical Trailer (1:22)

    A slightly shorter trailer than normal nowadays, it does a good job of presenting the film without giving too much away. Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, it is 16x9 enhanced and comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. No technical concerns here.

Trailer - Soundtrack Promo (0:19)

    More of a short television advert than a trailer I suppose, this really is for completists only. Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, it is not 16x9 enhanced and comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. Don't blink or you may miss it!

Storyboard Gallery

    This presents three storyboard sequences: the Shark Attack, Murph Overboard and the Helicopter Ditch. There are plenty of them, but they have one thing in common - they are uniformly difficult to read. Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, they are 16x9 enhanced. Mildly interesting unless you really are really into these sorts of things.

DVD-ROM content

    Well, if you really want to know why I reckon DVD-ROM content is the biggest abomination inflicted upon DVD-Video, this is a good example of it. Throw the DVD into your DVD-ROM drive and the obligatory PCFriendly interface fires up. You then endure a rather poor resolution collection of short clips from the film thrown together as an animated intro to the main menu, from which you can select either to play the film or hit the DVD-ROM content. Hitting the ROM selection, you get taken to a menu that, aside from containing the obligatory selection buttons for the studio, the store and so on, gives you the option of selecting Online Events, Brewing The Storm and Theatrical Web Site. These selections connect to various web sites to provide the information, so an Internet connection is essential. From there you can wander around plenty of information about the film or related to the film if you so desire, some of which is interesting and some of which is not, or elect to participate in scheduled events. A good deal of this is stuff that should have been included on the DVD itself. Some of the photos and video footage should really have been compiled into a good featurette that should have been presented on a second DVD of a two DVD set. All the DVD-ROM content actually is is nothing more than a glorified link to the Web sites, much of which could just as easily be accessed if you just dialled in using the address on the back of the DVD. Impressive-looking but without substance.

R4 vs R1

    It would appear that the Region 4 release misses out on:     It would appear that the Region 1 release misses out on:     The big difference here is the missing audio commentary, presumably lost due to space considerations (although quite perversely and erroneously it does get a mention in the inside slick cover). However, it is sadly missed as I would think they would have had plenty to add about the visual effects. In view of the trend towards two DVD sets with the extras on the second DVD (The Abyss, Independence Day, Gladiator, Bridge On The River Kwai to name a few), it does beg the question as to why the format was not used with this exceedingly high profile title, so that we got all the extras from Region 1. The other logical choice was to dump the German soundtrack. The missing audio commentary would certainly put the choice very much in favour of the Region 1 release, as all reviews I found indicate that this is a superlative quality Region 1 DVD.


    The Perfect Storm would hardly be a great film without the superb work of its cast and crew. They made this into something quite special and a very memorable film. It is given an almost reference quality video transfer and a demonstration quality audio transfer. The extras package is superb and this really ends up being a DVD that is only denied Hall of Fame inclusion by the minor aliasing problem. Almost an essential inclusion in every collection.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ian Morris (have a laugh, check out the bio)
12th January 2001

Review Equipment
DVD Pioneer DV-515; S-video output
Display Sony Trinitron Wega 80cm. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Audio Decoder Built in
Amplification Yamaha RXV-795. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Speakers Energy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL