Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Dead Calm (2009)

Dead CalmWhat do you get when you mix in an amazing Australian director, a rising Australian actress, a prominent New Zealander actor, and a villainous American actor? The result is "Dead Calm," an intense thriller that will leave you adrift in suspense for 90 minutes.

The story, which revolves around an Australian couple taking a vacation to recover from the death of their young child in an automobile accident, might sound like the perfect movie to relax to on any evening, however it isn't. While sailing Australia's Great Barrier Reef and the South Pacific, the young couple played by Nicole Kidman ("Days of Glory"; "Batman Forever") and Sam Neill ("Renaissance Man"; "Jurassic Park") pick up a castaway played by Billy Zane ("Titanic"; "Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight") who is the sole survivor of a sinking ship.

After hearing his story Neill's character decides to go to the ship and check it out firsthand. That was his big mistake. Soon Zane hijacks the yacht and Kidman, leaving Neill to sink in the ship he fled. The sinister motives for Zane's departure from the ship are later discovered as the movie progresses, however it is Kidman's and Zane's chemistry and performance that make this movie one of the best suspense thrillers I have ever seen.

As usual, Zane, is the ideal villain. I wouldn't be surprised if it was this film that led to Hollywood's decision to cast him as a villain in almost every film he has done since "Dead Calm". He was brilliant in "Titanic", and the most sinister and witty horror villain since Freddy Kruegger in "Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight" However, his performance as the deranged castaway in this film mixes his ability to use his intense sex appeal with his professionalism to the fullest extent.

Director Philip Noyce ("U2: Rattle & Hum") happens to be one of Australia's most gifted actors. Along with Stephen Norrington ("Blade") these gifted Australian directors give Hollywood a new reason to head "Down Under" when searching for top-notched directors for their films.

"Dead Calm" represents Australia's prominence in world cinema when it comes to intelligent thrillers produced at half the costs associated with a major Hollywood Thriller nowadays. If you're looking for an intense thriller, you've found it.

When Dead Calm's promotional editor warns you to "Try to Stay Calm," believe me when I say you're not up to the challenge. If this one doesn't shock you, you better get your girlfriend to check your pulse.

The story is simple: Nicole Kidman and Sam Neill hit the ocean for some quality time together to forget the auto accident that claimed their only child. Kidman is barely there at first--she was driving when their son was killed and suffers from overpowering sorrow and guilt. When the couple floats up on a disabled ship with only one surviving passenger--Billy Zane--they take him aboard, unaware that they've just taken in an angel of death. From this point on the terror mounts relentlessly as Kidman and Neill struggle to deal with Zane and the hellfire he brings with him. Eventually separated, the husband and wife must dig deep within themselves just to stay alive.

The great cast makes what could have been a routine B-movie work. Kidman is particularly outstanding as the emotionally vampirized young wife who slowly evolves into a strong woman who can rescue her man when she needs to. Neill, one of the industry's most underrated performers, is stalwart and professional as always. Zane gives Anthony Perkins a run for his money as the psychotic young man who can only destroy what he doesn't understand--everything.

A marvelous dish of cold chills, Dead Calm is highly recommended to anyone who loves a good, intelligent scare.

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I could go on and on about this one. One could theorize that the whole movie is actually a product of Kidman's mind. One could bring up the fact that the couple has sailed out to the metaphorical calm waters to get away from the insanity of the things that have happened in their life only to have insanity come rowing a boat out to meet them and now they (specifically her) must learn to deal with that insanity. That's getting a little deep, so I'll stick to what I know.

Kidman and Neill are trying to get over the tragic loss of their child by sailing out to the middle of nowhere to get away from things. They run across a sinking schooner which has only one survivor (Zane). He rows out to them and climbs aboard. Neill, out of curiosity, rows over to the sinking ship to find out what happened. This leaves Zane and Kidman on the boat...alone. I think what I wrote about accepting the insanity is pretty accurate as Kidman, in order to survive, feigns a relationship with Zane when she realizes that her life is in danger. Neill discovers what really happened on that boat and most of his story becomes trying to catch up with Zane and Kidman.

Metaphors aside, this is a good movie. The screenplay is taught. There are no scenes where you think to yourself that this is totally unnecessary. Everything establishes character or advances a situation. Neill's desperate struggle to get to the boat and his resourcefulness are real highlights.

The DVD doesn't really add too much, but I still recommend it for those who care about the quality of picture. It looks awesome on HDTV.


Read Best Reviews of Dead Calm (2009) Here

From the opening credits with that haunting music, to the tragic car accident scene, to the first scenes on the open sea (only 4 minutes in), all the way to the end, this movie is GREAT! There is no other movie that will keep you on the edge of your seat. The three person cast is amazingly talented. You feel trapped and scared with John Ingram (Sam Neill) as he tries to escape the bows of a sinking ship and get to his wife. You feel the hopelessness of Rae Ingram (Nicole Kidman) trapped with a madman and find yourself yelling "Yes! That's right! Go! Go!" as her quick witted mind begins to work as she attempts many different ways of defending herself. And it is understandable why she won't kill the captor, for after the death of her son, I think that she finds killing a last resort and will do anything not to have to kill a person. And as Hughie Warner, you can tell that Billy Zane is having soooo much fun with his crazed role.

On top of all that the boat, Sarascen, is really cool. Plus, throw in a heart pounding scene as Rae fights Hughie inside the boat during a huge storm, a heart wrenching demise to the family dog, a handful of sleeping pills, and one too many flares, there you have one awesome thriller.

Want Dead Calm (2009) Discount?

Released in 1989, this low-budget film is remarkable for several reasons. Most obviously, it was Nicole Kidman's first leading role, which she handles brilliantly. At 20, we can already see the star quality and intensity of concentration that distinguishes much of her later work. As Rae Ingram, she hits so many levels from adoring wife to loving and then grieving mother, seductress, warrior, and survivor. The special effects at the beginning of the movie where the child is flung through the windshield, while emotionally unpleasant, are well executed. As the plot mechanism which leads John & Rae into the dead calm cruise, what follows with the struggle with Hughie Warriner effectively puts the grieving out of mind. Sam Neill as John Ingram does a great job of playing the loving husband, grieving father, and skilled naval officer who winds up stranded on a sinking boat and must use hits wits & skill to survive. Billy Zane as Hughie seems to enjoy letting loose as the crazed killer on the high seas. Australian director Phillip Noyce would later go on to make several big-budget features with Harrison Ford, "Clear & Present Danger" & "Patriot Games." "Dead Calm" was the feature that first got Hollywood's attention for him. He does an amazingly masterful job of crafting an intense, sometimes too intense, experience on the boat that not only holds our attention but rivets us to the outcome. As I see the ads for the "Survivor" series on television, this film is kind of like the original "survivor" with Kidman being the million-dollar winner. Last but not least, the dog is a real character in the piece and one of the cutest of canines. "Dead Calm" is amazing because they accomplished so much with so little. When Zane's head finally lights up at the end, we breathe the final sigh of relief. U snooze, U lose with this diamond in the rough. Enjoy!

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