Dead Calm (1989)

Dead Calm (1989), directed by Phillip Noyce.

On a quiet cruise after a personal tragedy, a married couple pick up a stranger frantic to leave his sinking ship. He's a psycho killer. Both husband and wife, now separated, are in survival situations. He on the foundering boat with a load of corpses, she with an oversexed nutjob. How to handle both ends and get back together?

Remember: they always jump one last time.

An efficient thriller at only 96m, but it doesn't seem rushed. The beautiful ocean shots give an illusion of more time, probably implied by the expanses of space.

I've liked Sam Neill since his early years in My Brilliant Career and Reilly: Ace of Spies. His naval officer is a good character for a survival situation: he can fix things and navigate.

Young Nicole Kidman is fine as a woman in a desperate situation. To buy time she submits to the stranger and pretends sexual enthusiasm. This is queasy-making because although her quick nudity is lovely, we feel guilty about the circumstances. There is odd psycho-drama with the psycho, when she toys with him over the engine key. But she is great when sailing the boat single-handed.

Billy Zane is a reliable lunatic, with those little boy eyes and disarming smile.

The final scene breaks the seriously tense tone with a bit of action film absurdity. The studio insisted.


Much lovely photography and impressive sailing scenes. Graeme Revell's first feature film score is quite nice.

Available on Blu-ray