Dead Calm

Dead Calm


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Calm seas. Calm, calm days. John (Sam Neill) and Rae (Nicole Kidman) let their yacht drift beyond the Great Barrier Reef. The sun sinks into the ocean. So perfect. So still.

They notice a black schooner, stationary in the distance, sails down. John tries to make contact on the ship-to-ship radio. No answer. Through the binoculars, he sees evidence of storm damage. Rae looks. "There's something in the water," she says.

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A man is rowing a dinghy, fast, in their direction. He comes on board, a young American (Billy Zane), sweating from exertion, nervous and jumpy. All his crew is dead, he tells them, victims of food poisoning. His boat is sinking. John, the experienced sailor, is sceptical. He has to find out for himself.

There are elements here of an Arthur Conan Doyle short story, in which travellers stumble upon evidence of weird and terrible deeds in strange, exotic locations. Fear mounts as mystery thickens. The unknown, the unthinkable, creates a terror far worse than living reality.

When John rows back to the stricken schooner to investigate, Rae is left alone with the American. She is a tough, intelligent woman, but he is cunning, devious and petulant. What he wants, he takes. And he doesn't want John.

Phillip Noyce directs a tense thriller from the skeleton of old ideas. He is helped by Zane's menacing performance and solid, imaginative acting from Kidman in her first starring role. John appears determined, resourceful and, as is so often the case with Neill, a little starched.

Reviewed on: 11 Nov 2006
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Dead Calm packshot
Trapped on a yacht with a serial killer.
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Director: Phillip Noyce

Writer: Terry Hayes, based on the novel by Charles Williams

Starring: Sam Neill, Nicole Kidman, Billy Zane, Rod Mullinar, Joshua Tilden, George Shevtsov, Michael Long

Year: 1989

Runtime: 96 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Australia/US


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