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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Dead Calm
Dead Calm
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Review by Earl Cressey | posted July 10, 2000 | E-mail the Author
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Movie:
Dead Calm is the very intense suspense-thriller from director Philip Noyce (Patriot Games, Saint). John Ingram (Sam Neill), a captain in the Navy, arrives at the railway to rejoin his family, only to be greeted by two police officers. They take him to the hospital to see his wife, Rae (Nicole Kidman), who was badly injured in a car wreck that also killed their son. In order to start the healing process, they take a boating vacation for what they think will be a relaxing and calming voyage at sea with their dog Ben. However, three weeks in without seeing anyone, they come across a ship that appears to be sinking and a survivor franticly rowing towards them in a dinghy. They take him aboard, and he introduces himself as Hughie Warriner (Billy Zane). Hughie tells them that his ship is indeed sinking, and his five crewmates died, one by one, in one day, from food poisoning. John has trouble believing his story, and decides to check out Hughie's ship after he reads some contradicting information in the ship's log that Hughie had brought aboard. After Hughie has fallen asleep, he takes the dinghy, leaving Rae behind. Hughie then wakes up, knocks out Rae, and takes control of the ship, leaving John stranded with the truth in Hughie's sinking vessel. Rae regains consciousness, only to discover she is trapped at sea with Hughie. She then must find a way to rescue her husband and save herself…before its too late.

I found Dead Calm to be a highly entertaining suspense-thriller film. It did drag a bit near the end, and is somewhat predictable, but the strong performances and interesting plot kept me hooked till the end.

Picture:
The Dead Calm DVD gives the viewer two choices for watching the film: 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen or 1.33:1 full frame. The picture quality leaves something to be desired though. The picture contains some shimmer here and there, but the biggest drawback is the overwhelming amount of grain present, especially in a few scenes where it is extremely distracting. The colors during these scenes are often muted and dull. These problem areas mostly occur inside the ships, as most of the scenes shot outdoors are simply breathtaking to see, with vibrant colors and little to no defects.

Sound:
Dead Calm contains both an English and a French Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround track. The surround is very good for 2.0 and is fairly well utilized. The score is terrific and very vital in creating a suspenseful mood; however, I couldn't help but think how much better it would sound in 5.1. The dialogue is also a sore spot: many times the characters lines are inaudible or muted even at higher volumes, making the included subtitles a necessity to catch all the story.

Extras:
Optional English and French subtitles are included, as well as the original theatrical trailer in anamorphic widescreen and mono sound.

Summary:
Dead Calm is a terrific film that most any fan of the genre will thoroughly enjoy. However, since the DVD is lacking in both picture and sound quality, I recommend only renting it, instead of a purchase. Hopefully Warner will release a remastered version of it soon.

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