24 February 2016 | lnvicta
Slow-burning and well-acted, sure to give you both thrills and chills.
After reading the plot for Dead Calm I was expecting an edge-of-your-seat boat massacre thriller, and in a sense that's exactly what Dead Calm is. I was always on the edge of my seat, anxious to know what would happen next and terrified for the characters in their respective situations, but there was much less violence than I was expecting. And I'm not complaining. Most of the violence is implied rather than shown, and the movie not only deals with physical abuse but emotional and mental abuse as well. The story is basically that this couple goes out to sea on a getaway to forget about a recent tragedy, and while they're out in the middle of the ocean they encounter a strange boat and a strange man who claims that his crew was killed by food poisoning. The way the pieces come together is very satisfying, especially when the truth slowly reveals itself and both the husband and wife are going through equally scary dilemmas as this stranger is roaming freely around their boat.
The acting is really what sells this movie. A boat movie with only three characters can get boring quickly, but thanks to the cast, I was totally in it. Sam Neil is separated from the others for a good amount of the film, but when he needs to shine, he does. The anchors of this movie are Nicole Kidman and Billy Zane. Kidman is excellent as the emotionally distraught wife who is doing everything she can to keep it together while desperately trying outsmart the stranger. Billy Zane had me worried for a bit - I could tell he was acting, and at times he was a bit cartoonish, but by the end you come to realize that the character is an absolute nutcase so his erratic acting makes sense. You're not sure if he's just a guy who had a rough week, or a sympathetic victim of circumstance, or a straight up maniacal psychopath. This uncertainty helps keep the thriller afloat (yeah) and keeps you anxious to see whatever happens next.
The only real complaint I have about Dead Calm is that it does get a little slow at times. It's very atmospheric and moody for a majority of the film and there's no problem with that, but I couldn't help but be distracted during some of the longer quiet moments. Regardless, it all builds up to the movie's exciting climax which doesn't disappoint. The music is great as well - haunting and subtle. Keep in mind Dead Calm is not a jump-scare type of horror thriller. It's slow-paced, grounded and completely plausible, which for me is the scariest kind.