The Abyss

The Abyss

****1/2

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

A nuclear sub crashes into a cliff wall miles deep. Bud Brigman (Ed Harris) and his men, who work as freelance divers, usually for oil companies, are in the area, operating from a giant submersible. The navy needs them to search for survivors.

Brigman is forced to accept the assignment, as well as take on additional personnel. Lt Coffey (Michael Biehn) is a Commie-hating career officer, trained like a machine tool to activate on orders. He brings three brick-jawed, meat-eating clones as backup.

Copy picture

There is another new arrival (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio), project engineer of the underwater rig, known to the crew as the next worst thing to a human depth charge. Brigman takes one look and groans, “God, I hate that bitch.” “Probably shouldn’t have married her,” the on-board paranoiac says.

The situation looks grim – a husband and wife who can’t talk to each other, a wrecked submarine with live missiles, a naval lieutenant suffering “pressure induced psychosis” with his own nuclear warhead, a typhoon at sea, a rerun Cuban crisis brewing and suddenly from the inhospitable depths extra terrestrial interference.

Writer/director James Cameron has taken an idea from science fiction and recreated it underwater. The effect is even more claustrophobic, as fear of drowning relates easier than galactic accident. The tension is never loosened, the action seldom rests and the dialogue sounds as sharp and convincing as the actors who speak it.

The film cost a fortune to make and it shows in the quality of production. Even the strange sightings (“Are we talking little space friends here?”) astonish, although this Close Encounters element is possibly too much to swallow, especially at the end, but imaginative licence stretches credulity a long way.

Reviewed on: 09 Dec 2008
Share this with others on...
The Abyss packshot
Action-packed underwater rescue thriller, with nuclear warheads, explosive relationships and extra-terrestrials.
Amazon link

Director: James Cameron

Writer: James Cameron

Starring: Ed Harris, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Michael Biehn, Leo Burmester, Todd Graff, John Bedford Lloyd, J.C. Quinn, Kimberly Scott, Captain Kidd Brewer Jr., George Robert Klek

Year: 1989

Runtime: 138 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US

Festivals:

Sci-Fi 2010

Search database: