Dead Calm (1989) / Thriller-Horror

MPAA Rated: R for strong violence, nudity, and language
Running Time: 96 min.


Cast: Nicole Kidman, Sam Neill, Billy Zane
Director: Phillip Noyce
Screenplay: Terry Hayes (based on the novel by Charles Williams)
Review published March 14, 1999

Dead Calm is a nifty little thriller that reduces its thrills and chills to its rawest forms. No elaborate plot, no brainy twists and turns.  This is pure tension, pitting a married man and woman in the fight for their lives against an unstable enemy they invited aboard their ocean vessel.

Dead Calm is worth seeking out for two types of people:  Nicole Kidman (Days of Thunder, Malice) fans interested in some of her early pre-Hollywood work and thriller fans bored with the current crop of routine thrillers.  Kidman shows here some of her terrific acting abilities, playing terror, fright, and strength all at the same time in a realistic way.  Billy Zane (Memphis Belle, The Phantom) gives his character a scary appeal, seeming scary and seductive, terrifying and likeable.

The story and going-on are nothing which would seem to be of much interest as a movie, but Dead Calm just always seems to work.  The reason?  Excellent acting from all three stars with high amounts of believability.  This makes what happens seem all the more terrifying for the viewer.  The only real weakness is with an ending that seems too unrealistic and not really in harmony with the rest of the film. 

Want tension?  Dead Calm delivers.

Qwipster's rating:

1999 Vince Leo