This is the time of year when sailing the open seas seems appealing. For filmmakers, there is a lot of dramatic potential rooted in stories that involve humans and boats. They can make sea creatures the enemy in films like "Jaws," and they can make bad weather the enemy in films like "The Perfect Storm." Also, the can make other humans the enemy. An example of this is "Dead Calm," from 1989.
In "Dead Calm," John and Rae Ingram (played by Sam Neill and Nicole Kidman) turn to the sea for solace but instead find enormous turmoil. Rae was in a car accident that killed their son. She and her husband, John, are lovers of the ocean and skilled navigators so, together with their dog, they embark on a trip designed to help them make peace with their tragedy. As they are alone in the middle of the ocean, the mysterious Hughie (played by Billy Zane) finds them and boards their boat. He claims he is the lone survivor of a yacht where everyone else died of food poisoning. John, a naval officer, is suspicious and leaves his boat to row to the yacht to investigate. Hughie turns out to be very dangerous, and Rae has to confront and try to control him on her own. Meanwhile, John finds that the yacht is sinking and his efforts to return to Rae are consistently undermined.
Phillip Noyce does a great job directing "Dead Calm." There is a lot of tension, and the film is always interesting, even though most of it only features the three main characters.
Nicole Kidman is excellent as Rae, who is quite smart and capable of handling herself with the unhinged Hughie aboard her boat. Sam Neill is equally good as John, who loves his wife and does everything he can to return to her. Billy Zane effectively transforms Hughie from hapless victim to determined victimizer.
"Dead Calm" is well-worth seeing as it has a lot of suspense, although it may make you want to stay on dry land!