Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Two decades later, 'Dead Calm' remainsNicole Kidman at her best

Dead Calm (1989)
Starring: Sam Neill, Nicole Kidman, and Billy Zane
Director: Philip Noyce
Rating: Seven of Ten Stars

John (Neill) and Rae (Kidman) are cruising the Pacific on their yacht, putting their lives and marriage back together after a tragedy claimed their son. They come upon an adrift schooner and rescue Hughie (Zane) from it. John is instantly suspicious of Hughie's claim that he's the only survivor of food-poisoning onboard... and his suspicions soon prove well-founded. The lesson learned is to not pick up hitchikers, even on the high seas.

"Dead Calm" is an exciting thriller blessed with a spectacular script. It is elevated further by some great camerawork, incredible sets, and fantastic performances by all the actors involved. Kidman does the best acting job I've ever seen from her, and I might agree her star status was well deserved if I hadn't seen her stink up the joint in other films.

The movie kept me engaged from beginning to end. Unlike some online commentators on this film, I appreciated the fact that John and Rae remained decent human beings throughout.

The common complaint among reviewers is "why didn't Rae kill Hughie at any one of the several times she had the chance?" I think many of those people don't understand how a real person with real emotions functions--assuming that person isn't a psychopath. The fact John and Rae don't kill Hughie makes the film all the more believable to me, ore so than so many other thrillers that devolve into vigilante fantasies in their third acts.

Even if you normally can't stand Nicole Kidman, she gives a good performance in this film, which is further blessed by the fact that it is populated with realistic characters. It's definately worth seeking out.