Dead Calm 8/10
Dead Calm (R) 1989
Reviewer’s Tilt (7)
Special DVD Features worth a look-None
Devastated by the tragic death of their young so, Aussies John and Rae Ingram (Sam Neill and Nichole Kidman) set out to sea to reclaim their lives and rebuild their marriage. Miles from shore, they run across a stranded ship. Hughie Warner (Billy Zane), the ship’s sole surviving crew member, rows a lifeboat over to meet the couple. Hughie explains that his ship’s engine is down and that food poisoning killed everyone on board, including the mechanic. When John visits the stranded ship to investigate, things take a turn for the worse, and thus begins this white-knuckle psychological thriller.
Actually, this movie is two separate thrillers; each with its own cast and plot. This is a rather amazing feat, given that the movie basically has only three characters and two locations. A particularly entertaining aspect of this film is that the protagonists must save themselves to save their spouse. Some have criticized this film because Rae had opportunities to resolve the conflict if she was willing to take a life. It is easy to sit in your Lay-Z-Boy and say that you would kill this guy or that. Anyone who has actually confronted this decision, however, will tell you it is very difficult, especially if there are other options. Combine this with Rae Ingram’s grief associated with her son’s death and the decision not to kill is much more understandable. With only three basic characters, this film could not have worked without incredible performances all around.
Lucky for us, every actor in this film delivers. Neill is the epitome of the good, resourceful husband. Kidman is mesmerizing as the attractive young wife, willing to use anything at her disposal to save herself and what is left of her family. Billy Zane embodies one of the most satisfying villains I have ever seen. Toss in outstanding direction by Phillip Noyce, great cinematography and a stunning score by Graeme Revell, and you have all the makings for an incredible thrillride. Despite a slightly ridiculous conclusion, Dead Calm is a slick and savy thriller, definitely worth a look.
Format: Color, Widescreen anamorphic, Closed captioned.
Sound: (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo), French (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)