For me, the perfect storm is the one that stays far away. But today, I powered up the equipment, strapped myself in, and let loose the sound and the fury of Wolfgang Petersen's film. Here's a director who knows how to establish characters, relationships, and circumstances through composition, camera movement, and the intercut-ting of parallel perils. Thankfully, it all comes across on The Perfect Storm's transfer to Blu-ray Disc.
Images are bright and crisp. Excellent contrast reveals the popping yellow and orange of the fishermen's waterproof gear as well as the autumnal colors of their regular clothing. From the front of the picture to the back, the wide range of tones and detail produces a great depth to shots and a frequent roundness to figures and faces.
In the calm-before-the-storm sequences, James Horner's music has decent separation across the front channels of the open Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix. Once the tempest blows up, though, elements come at you from every side, with waves rolling past and the rescue chopper roaring overhead. All the while, wind and surf create immersive atmospherics without muddying the soundtrack.
Compared with Petersen's film, storm sister Twister has a one-note script, as two rival teams attempt to map tornadoes. Director Jan de Bont seems fine with this, since it allows him to stage one whirlwind action sequence after another and keep the camera constantly moving to create thrills through kinetics. As actor Bill Paxton puts it in an accompanying featurette: "It's your line, my line, run run run. Your line, my line, run run run."
The film's dark, evenly lit picture - presumably in keeping with all the overcast skies - results in some rather dull and flat images on Blu-ray Disc. Cars and trucks provide blocks of rich color, but whites could be brighter, and blacks deeper.
When we're close to one of those twisters, whooshing winds come across in a big surrounding wash. Further from the vortex, the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix allows for greater distinction in sounds, with creaking wood, fizzling power lines, and crashing debris each coming from a different point. What little dialogue there is in these scenes ("It's coming!") remains clear, but the rock score lacks definition.
The Perfect Storm's too-brief accompanying featurettes each leave you wanting more. Three commentaries do offer lots of interesting information, but they'd be more fun presented PIP-style with background footage. Still, Petersen is a knowledgeable, enthusiastic raconteur in discussing the cast and giving an overview; the visual-effects team deconstructs every shot; and author Sebastian Junger fills in the true backstory. Twister's only worthwhile extra is a History Channel documentary. The rest is hot air.
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