Friday, July 23, 2010

Dead Calm directed by Phillip Noyce

It's July, it's sweltering and not a breeze is stirring. How about fixing an ice cold drink and stretching out on the couch to watch a chiller? Dead Calm is a reminder that there is very little protection from psychopaths out on the open ocean, and that no good deed goes unpunished.

Rae and John Ingram, an Australian couple who are coping with the death of their only child, decide to take their yacht out to sea for time alone together. They are far from land with no other vessel in sight when the wind dies down and the water becomes glassy and flat. They are satisfied to drift aimlessly for a few days and try to heal from their loss. Their privacy, however, is suddenly interrupted when John spots what appears to be a sinking ship in the distance and a person frantically rowing a dinghy toward the Ingrams' yacht. The stranger boards their boat in a complete panic. As John and Rae calm him down, he is gradually able to tell them that he is the only survivor of a chartered pleasure boat. The crew and all the other passengers have died of food poisoning and now the ship is sinking. But John, a levelheaded officer in the Australian Navy, senses that something is not quite right about this story. As soon as the exhausted man falls asleep, John locks him in the cabin and takes the dinghy to check out the sinking ship, setting in motion a heart-stopping chain of events.

In spite of the fact that this movie is over twenty years old, it has a very timeless feel to it. It was filmed on Australia's Great Barrier Reef, so the scenery consists almost entirely of mesmerizing ocean shots. Rae and John, played by Nicole Kidman and Sam Neill, are glamorous, capable and a treat to watch. Billy Zane, who later played Rose's cruel fiance in James Cameron's Titanic, couldn't be more perfect as a mentally unstable charmer who finally goes over the edge. Search the VBPL catalog for Dead Calm. If you enjoy suspense at sea, you might want to read And the Sea Will Tell, Vincent Bugliosi's gripping true crime work about murder in the Pacific.

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