Monday, June 14, 2010

Dead Calm. B+


If you ever wonder what Nicole Kidman's first major film role was, you might be surprised to learn it was in the tense, taut Phillip Noyce thriller Dead Calm. In it she plays a grief-stricken mother named Rae who's son was killed in a tragic car accident. The movie then cuts to she and her husband (Sam Neill) on a boat in the middle of the ocean. Their vacation is interrupted when another boat is sighted. A young man named Hughie (Billy Zane) says he's the only survivor on the boat and that it's sinking fast. His story is that the other passengers died of food poisoning. The husband doesn't buy the story, so while Hughie's asleep, he goes onto the other boat and finds the Hughie actually murdered the other passengers. Before he can get back, Hughie takes control of the boat and sails off with Rae. Hughie was an interesting character. He's a killer, but he's only dangerous if he gets angry. Rae figures this out and acts nice around him and for the most part he's harmless. But secretly she's trying to find a way to kill Hughie and turn the boat around. Dead Calm is an original thriller that builds genuine suspense. It does lose some of its power in the final act when Hughie figures out Rae's intentions. Also, the final surprise at the end was obvious and far too typical. But I really liked the movie and found it to be much more effective than most modern thrillers. Hitchcock would have approved.

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