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Dead Calm (BD)
Take an ocean voyage of full-masted fright with Dead Calm, “a spare, smart, seductive piece of moviemaking with enough tension to keep us all hyperventilating for hours” (Sheila Benson, Los Angeles Times). Thriller specialist Philip Noyce (Patriot Games, The Saint) diredcts three splendid actors – Sam Neill, Nicole Kidman and Billy Zane – in riveting performances. Joe and Rae Ingham (Neill and Kidman) do the right thing and rescue the half-delirious sole survivor (Zane) of a crippled schooner. But soon the stranger will plunge the unwary pair into an intense battle of cat and mouse. And life or death.]]>
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Written by: Terry Hayes
Produced by: Dean Semler
Music: Graeme Revell
Starring: Nicole Kidman, Sam Neil, Billy Zane
This is a 1988 version of Tony Hayes psychological thriller. There was an earlier attempt of this film that was never completed. All things considered it remains an intense piece of work. The story starts in an Australia train station with John Ingram (Sam Neil) an Australian naval captain told by the police his wife has been in an accident and later at the hospital he is told his son went through the window in a head on collision along a high speed expressway. Horrible things sometimes happen, but I disagree with following decisions to deal with John's son's death by going on an extended South sea cruise. A south sea cruise is not so easy. Rae is understandably crushed and needs a long recovery. She is on medication part of the time and probably knows of the damage to her dead son's face. A woman who has been through this will be years recovering and overwhelmed with guilt. Is sailing an 80 foot Ketch on the Pacific Ocean the solution? Anyone who has sailed the Pacific like I have knows you need to be well braced with your wits about you. You need the competence to read charts, handle gear, take watch, manage the radio, maintain a very large boat, and a hundred things to be careful about: flat ocean or rough. This includes keeping an eye for pirates! I would lobby to leave the child's death out. Let John and Rae start with a good life and let that provide the impact polarization for what eventually happens. Leave it out! This particular audience is grieving this boys death for the whole movie:. Whatever happens in this movie John and Rae will suffer on and on in this cut. Following that though I have very few complaints about this one. Once out to sea they run into a black schooner with a man urgently rowing toward their boat. John's seamanship aboard the beautiful well rigged Saracen is very impressive here as he hails the schooner, taking notes and positions in his log. In fact John's seamanship is a key feature in the film and the film's out come. After taking the panicky Warriner on board John doesn't believe a word of Hughie's story. But John fails to use his radio to call for help. He just suspects trouble and takes a huge risk. Instead he puts Hughie to bed and leaves Rae with him while he rows to the haunting Orpheus. Inside panic breaks loose when he finds many bodies some decapitated in one of the companionways. John frantically rows back to Rae but never makes it as Hughie beats Rae unconscious and motors off with Rae towards the horizon. What follows is a real struggle for all three characters. I think the remainder of the story is well told. Rae shows her strength as a tough woman with superior knowledge of her boat and smarter than the winged out Hughie. Hughie is somewhere between PTSD and psychotic. He seems completely lost and convinced he is on an ocean cruise with beautiful woman listening to blues slide guitar.
John shows his cunning again by getting the old bucket Orpheus running in a plethora of rising water. The video tape coming live with the ships engines is a good way to tell the tale of Hughie's struggles and gives a hint of how he came to lose is mind. John gets trapped by a collapsed boom imprisoning him in the cabin of Orpheas. This is one of the most frightening moments of Dead Calm. John appears hopelessly trapped with no chance of escape, but more good seamanship gets him out of trouble. There is some very effective sailing near the end that reveals again Rae can be counted on in a storm. It also shows for the first time in the film the beauty of sailing. Finally the sailboat out of fuel gets put underway by Rae. There is excellent music in this movie (Graeme Revell) with powerful drums and color atura, which make the movie worth watching intrinsically. Rae and John eventually take out Hughie with a flare to finish a good story. Just one small request. Never tie up an insane pirate sharing your boat. Over the side! GJ
John (Sam Neill) and wife Rae (Nicole Kidman) take a trip on their yacht, yearning for isolation, solitude and a chance to heal after the catastrophic loss of their young son. This isolation comes back to haunt them later, as they appear to be in the middle of the ocean, and help is far away. After picking up a man in a rowboat (Billy Zane, in a eerily psychotic role), John is suspicious of the man's story, and decides to investigate the damaged ship Zane escaped from, leaving Rae alone with the survivor. The film splits at this point, telling almost two different tales. Rae, who soon discovers Zane is certifiable, and John, who enters into his own struggle to survive, going almost beyond the point of human endurance to stay alive on a slowly sinking ship. The movie is almost two films in one, which adds to the suspense. As John tries to keep the damaged schooner afloat, Rae has to survive the unpredictable mood swings of a mentally disturbed killer, not to mention his romantic advances, while trying to rescue her hubby.
Again, this is a subdued film. I suspect Noyce was aiming for something like a Hitchcock effect, only barely missing the mark. Graeme Revell's creepy, minimalist soundtrack matches perfectly with the scenic solitude of the open ocean. Just as Spielberg had done with Dennis Weaver in 'Duel', who often found himself alone, driving through canyons and desert terrain, Kidman and Neill seem to be at the mercy of the open sea as much as the dangerous behavior of Billy Zane. Even though it's never really established how far they are from land, it's obvious there won't be any police station or Coast Guard ship around the next corner.
The film is not without its issues. Rae is able to communicate with her hubby (although John can't speak to her, thanks to his radio being damaged), but she never thinks to send out a distress call or SOS? And towards the end of the film, Hughie (Zane's character) appears to be vanquished, and the couple appears to just carry on with their vacation...like nothing happened. Nicole has her sexy one-piece on, and Sam is making her breakfast and washing her hair. Right. I would have been making a bee-line for the nearest port or harbor.
The film is short on dialog, and the action may be lacking for some, but all in all, 'Dead Calm' is a curious, well-crafted thriller. It's amazing to me now just how young Nicole Kidman looked in this. A sweet, peaches-and-cream complexion, and looking even younger than she actually was (early 20's). She looks, and sounds, like she just got out of high school. She has aged remarkably well. Sam Neill, an accomplished actor, is a bit one-dimensional in this...the stalwart Navy man trying to help his wife recover from their child's death, but he played it pretty well. It was Billy Zane (the only American in the cast) who nearly steals the show as a dangerously unbalanced psychopath.
Those blokes down under occasionally pull off a cinematic gem, and this is one of them. It came as no surprise to learn this film was produced by Kennedy Miller Productions, who gave us the first two Mad Max movies. George Miller produced this just a few years after losing his long time partner, Byron Kennedy, who died in a helicopter crash in 1983.
So glad that Amazon had it in stock - could not find it Australia. Hence searching Amazon.
One little glitsch.. which we sort of expected could happen...it was a gamble. It was a wrong area for the DVD in Australia. Did not work on the Panasonic DVD player.
However, got around that by using a TEAC10" portable player hooked up to the TV.
Proud of this , being a "techno dinosaur".
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Even though I’ve seen it before I was still on the edge of my seat.