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Australia 1989
Directed by
Phillip Noyce
95 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars

Dead Calm

This suspense thriller has Nicole Kidman and Sam Neill as husband and wife fighting off psycho-killer Billy Zane in open seas (the film was shot in the Whitsunday Passage and a soundstage on Hamilton Island) . Deftly directed by Noyce, skilfully photographed by Dean Semmler and with an effective 80s style synthesizer score by Graeme Revell, it takes the limited settings of a couple of yachts and three very physical performances by the leads (and a dog) to create the kind of look-behind-you tension that Hollywood was once so good at (think Cape Fear, 1962).

Based on Charles Williams' 1963 novel of the same name (and which Orson Welles filmed as The Deep, unreleased) and well scripted by Terry Hayes who was also a co-producer, there is little to fault this film bar a woeful ending that was tacked on after American test screenings, presumably to ramp up the thrill quotient but that only managed to lower the intelligence quotient of what otherwise would have been an outstanding genre film.

FYI: Produced by Kennedy-Miller (the team behind Mad Max, an uncredited George Miller directed some of the scenes including the opening scene in the railway station.




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