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Dead Calm


1989's thriller DEAD CALM is the opposite of its title.

Sam Neill (Jurassic Park) and Nicole Kidman are John and Rae Ingram. In the film's opening moments, they suffer a family tragedy that threatens to tear Rae apart.

They escape to the sea on their yacht, seeking solitude to regain their footing after a devastating loss.

When they come across a large tourist vessel taking on water, they take aboard its terrified lone survivor Hughie, played by Billy Zane (Titanic).

John is an Australian Naval officer and the more he hears Hughie's tale, the more he grows to suspect that everything isn't what it seems.

While Hughie sleeps, John takes a smaller boat over to the marooned ship, leaving Rae alone on their boat with the stranger.

The following hour is pure tension and thrills as all three people prove themselves to be single minded in their determination.

Neill is excellent as John and his many scenes alone on screen are terrific & resourceful, showing all the screen presence the world would come to know the following year in "The Hunt For Red October" and four years later in Spielberg's dinosaur epic.

Nicole Kidman was only 21 when she filmed this, her first screen role. She's excellent throughout, busting the boundaries of a traditional "woman in distress" and holding her own against the invader.

Zane is all twisted menace as Hughie, flipping on a dime like a sea-bound Sybil and flashing seductive danger at every turn.

Producer George Miller, who directed the "Mad Max" series has his fingerprints all over DEAD CALM. It feels like a Miller film, from its imposing main title sequence and Graeme Revell's (The Crow) spooky music score to the crazy sweeping cameras that seem to hover around every angle of their yacht.

At just over 90 minutes, DEAD CALM is a non-stop, fast moving thriller that will get under your skin. It's too bad it succumbs to slasher movie stereotypes for its final two minutes, but with all the great scenes that came before, we'll forgive the tacked on "audience-pleaser" ending.

DEAD CALM gets an A.

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