Sep 2, 2010
Having to be reminded of Billy Zane's psycho-spree dailies from a chance encounter with a mint VHS edition in the community thrift store, I set out to watch Dead Calm the day I bought, if not for Billy Zane, then surely for Sam Neill. As you know without my sentiments regarding the topic of Dr. Alan Grant, Neill has turned role after role into something intelligent and quasi-masculine, even archetypes that shouldn't drop machismo. From an insurance fraud investigator to paleontologist, Sam Neill chisels his own persona out of this generally "nerdy" classifications and brings a wit and charisma to even the most absent character given in a screen play. Dead Calm is further proof of this when John (Neill) is stranded on a sinking boat of a past crew that were slaughtered by an emotionally-imbalanced Billy Zane, who has now commandeered his vessel along with his wife and left him to die. As you can tell by my impromptu synopsis, this is a dame flick but one that does very little justice for their cries for sincerity.
Dead Calm was directed by Phillip Noyce, an Australian director known throughout for his espionage and politically charged suspense films and sadly, not for Dead Calm. Once sight breaks of an exhausted male figure adorned with a cowboy hat, Sam Neill uses his scarcely explained experience in nautical military action to navigate the "dingy" back to the ship from whence Hughie (Zane) came, even after the delirious stranger begs him not to go as all six crew members died of "food poisoning." Things turn for the worse, specifically for Jon, when he opens a sealed door and the crew floods in with their perky, bare breasts buoyant against the rushing seawater escaping; the focused subject of our voyeuristic perverted cameraman while he captures all the "action" necessary for the arousal of the more seasoned deviants of cinema.
To switch lanes completely and in such a juvenile manner, one of the reasons I found The Mist to be an excellent and effective survival-horror film might have had something to do with the harmonizing soundtrack. The quick and jarring operatic vocals in tune with the crashing waves within Dead Calm allow so much atmosphere to stick to what could just be another extra ordinary thriller with the acting talents of two of cinema's greatest leading men and a popular slut. One of Dead Calm's greatest aesthetic strengths is the music leaving much to be desired from the lonely, rocking sea. Noyce doesn't bring anything new to the table by representing our ocean mother with his existing character artistry. To personify the crashing waves and eerie emptiness might require someone who has more of a penchant for environmental manipulation and not just Harrison Ford agenda films. To spin back to the inclusion of a now-popular slut as the lead heroine, I'd like to take this otherwise simple film and tread it into even darker waters.
Many of you who have seen the film are aware of the sexual insanity of the later mark in which Rae is "seduced" by Hughie after many failed attempts at distracting him long enough to reverse the boat's direction. With hopes to save her husband from the ticking time-bomb that is a sinking ghost ship, she becomes distracted with his rippling pecs and abs and finds herself in a naked embrace on their bed. When the dog stumbles in the door and stares at her curiously, Kidman finds it in her female nature to attempt to get up with intentions to put the dog away. Hughie shushes her and scares the beast away, only for it to return moments later. As the dog stares, one could assume this as an ample opportunity to assist in leashing the hell hound and preventing the slaughter of Rae's good intentions. But as this is the movies and these films tend to carry nonfictional accounts of womanly behavior, she gives in to his pulsing libido as they form a passionate coupling. Edit this atrocious sex scene with snipes of Sam Neill fighting for his life and you got yourself a real buzz kill. Nice going, Rae. You singlehandedly killed your marriage and my respect for you.
Asides from the raw dog Straw Dogs approach to questionable lust, Dead Calm remains with a mood that the title properly instills. It's a slowly paced thriller, not one of thrilling segments involving high-velocity chase sequences, but rather a demented sociopath suffering all forms of mother issues as his sanity and true intentions slowly unfold. Nicole "Whore" Kidman brings together a nice early performance as a woman escaping from the memory of ejecting her son through the windshield in high volume traffic, probably as the result of texting her BFF. While this is never really looked back upon as the film picks up, Kidman plays the near exact role she did in Birthday Girl - quiet, melodramatic, and pretty stupid. Much of the films frustrating moments come from either the asshole dog that you can't wait to be killed off or Kidman's inability to grab a knife or weapon. This is made increasingly agitating given that this isn't a hostage situation and the freedom Billy Zane allows her on the boat is overwhelming. Dead Calm is made possible on accounts of Billy Zane's wonderful performance and Sam Neill's persistence to save his wife who is busy bedding down with a serial killer. But hey, you can't tell me you wouldn't sleep with Billy Zane had you the chance.
Posted by Soiled Sinema at 10:23 AM
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