Dead Calm ***1/2

20120903-234900.jpg“Dead Calm” is one of those thrillers that doesn’t rely on over the top action or violence. Suspense is generated by the characters personalities as well as the seemingly endless ocean.

Nicole Kidman and Sam Neill star as a couple who have recently lost their son in a car accident. Neill decides to take Kidman sailing as a way to help her with her grief. They happen upon another boat where a single survivor, played by Billy Zane, tells them that his crew all died of food poisoning. Neill goes over to Zane’s boat and discovers that the crew met a worse fate than food poisoning.

This is when Zane commandeers the boat and leaves Neill behind. What follows is a pulse pounding series of scenes where Kidman must formulate a plan to stop the boat so that Neill can attempt to catch up. This involves playing head games with Zane, sleeping with him, and trying to knock him out with sedatives.

The director is the great Phillip Noyce, who later found success directing larger scale action pictures, some good some not so much. His later pictures did not have the genuine suspense and dread that this one had. It is almost like he enjoyed working with such a small budget as opposed to a larger one where you don’t have to be as creative.

“Dead Calm” is a pretty harrowing thriller. There are moments that really unnerved me as well as moments of sheer power like the site of a burning boat sinking in to the ocean. Thrillers like this have become few and far between these days.

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