Sometimes it seems too easy to do a particular week on a genre or a particular star or director. This week is Don’t Get on That Boat! week. Dead Calm is currently available on instant Netflix.
WATCH: Dead Calm (1989) – Rated R.
“The Ingrams — John (Sam Neill) and Rae (Nicole Kidman) — set off for an extended sailing trip after their young son dies tragically in a car crash. When they come across another seafarer (Billy Zane) feverishly paddling away from a sinking schooner, they bring him aboard — and quickly realize he’s a murderous sociopath. Masterfully directed by Phillip Noyce, this violent, psychological thriller helped launch Kidman’s film career.”
The beginning of this movie shows a wonderful economy of storytelling. We meet John on a railroad platform presumably waiting for Rae to arrive. Within the next few minutes the tragic circumstances setting the scene have occurred and we’re on the extended sailing trip. By the ten minute mark, we have already spotted the schooner.
There are other characters in this movie but this is essentially a three-person story. Nicole Kidman’s and Billy Zane’s careers were launched with this taut thriller. They had been on other films but this one put them on the map. Sam Neill’s career was in full swing when he made this. All three give wonderful, complex performances.
There are major gaping plotholes but the story is told so well by director Phillip Noyce that we aren’t left to linger on them for more than a moment. For instance why does John take the dinghy to the schooner instead of simply piloting his boat to the schooner?
I highly recommend this fast-paced thriller.
People Watch: Lisa Collins (Billy Zane’s ex-wife) plays one of the Orpheus Cruise girls. Sam Neill met his wife, makeup artist Noriko Watanabe, on the set of this film.