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The Best Reality Money Can Buy?

The Perfect Storm
Produced by Baltimore Spring Creek and Warner Bros.
Directed by Wolfgang Petersen
Screenplay by William D. Wittliff, based on Sebastian Junger's book
Released by Warner Bros.

The Patriot
Produced by Centropolis Entertainment and Mutual Film Company
Directed by Roland Emmerich
Screenplay by Robert Rodat
Released by Columbia Pictures

With few exceptions, there is an inverse relationship between a film's special-effects budget and its artistic imagination: Call it the Jurassic Law. When Steven Spielberg sicced his computerized dinosaurs on us, he proved unequivocally that the more money spent on making things look dazzlingly real, the slacker the plot and the flatter the characterization.

The Perfect Storm conforms perfectly to the Jurassic Law. Director Wolfgang Petersen was given a cool $130 million to adapt Sebastian Junger's best-selling account of the devastating storm that hit the Northeast coastline in 1991, sinking, among other things, the ill-fated fishing boat Andrea Gail off Gloucester, Massachusetts. He spared no expense lavishing the screen with computer-generated images of monstrous weather and savage seas. Spectacular? Without question, especially the weirdly (if improbably) illuminated night scenes. They're nothing less than darkness...

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