Movie Review: Dead Calm (1989)

Posted: March 13, 2013 in Drama
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dead calm

John Ingram (Sam Neil) is a naval officer.  He decides to take his wife Rae, (Nicole Kidman) on a sailing vacation to help her forget the horrific death of their son, in an auto accident.  They are alone on the water until they spot a black schooner named The Orpheus, seemingly abandoned in the water.  Seconds later, John spots a solitary man rowing a lifeboat, away from the Orpheus.  The man’s name is Hughie, (Billy Zane) he boards John and Rae’s boat, and says that the rest of the passengers on the Orpheus died of botulism.  John is immediately suspicious of the handsome stranger, and tells Rae to keep a gun with her while he boards the Orpheus to see for himself what happened to the rest of the passengers on the Orpheus?  What does John find on the boat Hughie just left?  What does Rae do when Hughie wakes up while John is away?

I liked Dead Calm a lot, it’s a very simple movie, no unnecessary characters or subplots that go nowhere. This is a very Spartan movie,  very suspenseful, a movie that keeps the viewer guessing most of the time.  It has a very claustrophobic feel to it thanks to the camerawork, the viewer gets the feeling that things are closing in, in both boats. The movie is also short enough not to lag, it moves along at a nice pace, there are no wasted scenes.

The acting is superb.  I believe this is Nicole Kidman’s first Hollywood role, and she seems so natural in this movie, it’s easy to see why she became a big star. No shrinking violet Ms. Kidman, she was very resourceful in this movie.  It’s also nice to hear her Aussie accent and see her curly red hair, before she became a glamour queen. Sam Neill is also very good, calm and steady, no matter what is going on around him.  This is also before he hit it big in Jurassic Park.  Billy Zane was terrific, he was very mercurial in this role, and that’s what made him fun to watch.  Zane was unpredictable, sometimes charming, quick with a smile, sometimes brooding. This was also before he played Kate Winslet’s aristocratic boyfriend in Titanic.  You can see for yourselves, enjoy these stars and find out what made them stars in the first place in this enjoyable thriller.

Dead Calm.  Not a dead spot in the film.


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