The Abyss (1989)

PG-13   |    |  Adventure, Drama, Mystery


The Abyss (1989) Poster

A civilian diving team is enlisted to search for a lost nuclear submarine and face danger while encountering an alien aquatic species.


7.6/10
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  • Michael Biehn in The Abyss (1989)
  • The Abyss (1989)
  • The Abyss (1989)
  • Ed Harris in The Abyss (1989)
  • James Cameron in The Abyss (1989)
  • Ed Harris and Joe Farago in The Abyss (1989)

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5 July 2005 | mstomaso
9
| Epic original sci-fi adventure with a lot of heart, action, suspense, and brains
The Abyss is one of my all-time favorite sci-fi films. It mixes hard science with abject fantasy to make moral and philosophical points about the human condition and our place in the universe without the usual clichés. And it does so with good dialog, strong characterization, and intensely emotional acting. Harris and Mastrantonio are absolutely electric together and dominate the screen, but the entire cast deserves plenty of credit. The production itself is mesmerizing despite its vast scale and tastefully used special effects. The film is long, but worth every second of the experience, and the slightly lengthier, more detailed Special Edition version is even better than the original.

Ostensibly, this is a film about first contact with non-terrestrial intelligence. But the story allegorically deals with an amazing array of themes common to great dramas - violence, love, capitalism, war, courage and cowardice. The hardest, most obedient soldier in the film, played spectacularly by Michael Biehn, is a coward, and a man who is hopelessly in love with his estranged wife (Harris) turns that love into an act of suicidal heroism which might unintentionally save the world. And yet nothing is exactly as it seems to be, and there are really no spoilers in this review. There are so many subtle and sensitively developed themes in this film that it is hard to imagine a more epically human drama in the sci-fi genre. Even so, this is a film which entertains at every level, and will satisfy the action fan as much as the wannabe film critic. ;-)

Most of the film takes place on an experimental submarine drilling platform owned by a petroleum company. A nuclear sub has been lost in "the abyss" - a subduction trench near the Caiman Islands - after encountering an impossibly fast object. Soon, the US military commandeers the platform and its command ship - The Benthic Explorer - to attempt a rescue mission. As everything begins to go wrong, and the encounters with strange phenomena continue, the Navy SEAL in charge of the rescue attempt begins to crack. Meanwhile, on the surface, accusations concerning the sub are escalating between the USSR and USA, and nuclear war seems immanent. This describes just a small segment of the deliciously complex plot that unfolds in The Abyss. You'll have to see it to enjoy the rest.

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Did You Know?

Trivia

Bud and Lindsey's rocky relationship may have been an unconscious mirror of the divorce that James Cameron was going through at the time with producer Gale Anne Hurd. After finishing Aliens (1986), Hurd had gone off to produce Alien Nation (1988) while Cameron was preparing for The Abyss. By the time the film was green-lit, they had grown apart and had already split amicably, but Cameron still decided that he didn't want to do the movie without Hurd producing. While the divorce was being finalized, Cameron was dating director Kathryn Bigelow during weekend breaks on The Abyss. They married shortly after completion of the film.


Quotes

USS Montana Captain: Sixty knots? No way, Barnes. The Reds don't have anything that fast.


Goofs

The primary mission of a ballistic missile submarine is to hide and remain hidden. The aggressive chasing of an unknown target, which ultimately led to the crash, is completely out of character and most likely a direct violation of orders. They would be far more likely to have slowed down, so as to reduce their noise output and become more stealthy, then to try and sneak away.


Crazy Credits

There was a dedication for Captain Kidd Brewer Jr. added at the beginning of the end credits of the special edition.


Alternate Versions

In the Special Edition an alternate take of one scene replaces that found in the original cut of the film, namely when Lindsay is relaying Bud's text messages to the surface ship by radio. In the original version, when she reads the line "This is Virgil Brigman back on the air", she appears amused and relieved, and looks away from the display. In the Special Edition when Lindsay says that line, she looks bemused and mystified, and keeps her eyes on the screen.


Soundtracks

WILLING
Written by
Lowell George
Performed by Linda Ronstadt
Courtesy of CEMA Special Markets and Capitol Records, Inc.

Storyline

Plot Summary


Synopsis (WARNING: Spoilers)


Genres

Adventure | Drama | Mystery | Sci-Fi | Thriller

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