Eighties thrillers are something else and Dead Calm is a perfect example of that. It opens with a brutally realistic scene that you won’t see in any of the modern thrillers. From that point on, you know that the stakes are high and that anything can happen. And it will, especially toward the end. Based on the 1963 novel of the same name by Charles Williams, Dead Calm is a captivating movie experience. A definition of an intense slow-burner that will leave you wanting more. We will be following Rae and John, a married couple enjoying themselves while traveling on their yacht. However, all of this is going to change one morning.
Engaging storytelling and just a few characters surrounded by the vastness of the ocean make Dead Calm feel more like a psychological thriller. It reminded me of a French classic Purple Noon starring Alan Delon and a more recent British thriller Donkey Punch. All three movies have a sexual component to them making this adventure a bit steamy. Until it becomes terrifying. As you probably know, I’m a fan of single-location movies. And while most of them take place in a house, building, or even a room, the ocean is more visually alluring and frightening.
While I was watching the movie, I kept thinking how this beautiful yacht cruise would be the stuff of nightmares for me. I just don’t like being far away from terra firma. To make things even more unsettling, the original novel drew inspiration from gruesome events that happened on the Bluebelle boat, back in the sixties. Just know that this story contains huge spoilers, so might want to check it out after you’ve seen the movie.
A huge yacht, sun, and a whole ocean to themselves sounded like a dream come true to Rae and John. They have been sailing for several weeks now, trying to relax and enjoy each other’s company. John, a former navy man has been in love with the sea all his life, and Rae needed a vacation. However, one faithful day, they saw something in the distance. They didn’t know it yet but that something was about to change their lives completely.
I think I don’t need to tell you that Nicole Kidman, Sam Neill, and young Billy Zane all gave incredible performances. Zane was especially good at making the most of his too-mysterious character. Despite rudimental but effective character development, you still wanted to know more about each of them. And if we’re talking about things that could have been better, there are a few action scenes that make no sense. They look good on the screen but they’re not very realistic.
However, by that time you’re already so invested in the story and characters that you mind these little flaws. Perhaps you’ll even find them amusing. Finally, if you’re looking for movies like Dead Calm, I first recommend you check out Sliver, also directed by Phillip Noyce. You can then move on to Frantic, The Believers, and Blue Velvet.
Director: Phillip Noyce
Writers: Terry Hayes, Charles Williams
Cast: Nicole Kidman, Sam Neill, Billy Zane, Rod Mullinar, Joshua Tilden
Fun Facts: Nicole Kidman actually learned to operate the ship and the scenes when she’s sailing the Saracen are real.
IMDb Link: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0097162/