He jumps into a lifeboat and rows for his life toward the yacht, where he is taken aboard.
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The husband, curious, goes to inspect the schooner, leaving his wife alone with the castaway, who of course turns out to be a homicidal killer. Almost the entire movie involves these three characters in a violent game of psychological strategy.
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Sam Neill stars as the husband, who is stranded on the sinking ship when the killer sails away. Nicole Kidman is the wife, who has to outsmart and outfight the madman. And Billy Zane is the killer, wild-eyed and off-balance.
The plot splits into two for most of the movie, with the woman on board the yacht with the killer, while her husband finds himself trapped in the hold of the sinking ship with the water rapidly rising above nose level. The counterpoint is effective. A plot like this is probably impossible without two ancient movie traditions, the Talking Killer and the Undead Dead.
Time and again in the movie, the story would be over if someone - anyone - simply pulled the trigger.
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There is a moment when the wife temporarily has the upper hand against this madman who has assaulted and beaten her and left her husband to drown, and what does she do? She ties him up! And with the knot in front, too - where he can get at it. Later in the film, after he appears to be dead, he reappears, of course, and has to be fought a second time.
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And yet "Dead Calm" generates genuine tension, because the story is so simple and the performances are so straightforward. This is not a gimmick film unless you count the husband's method of escaping from the sinking ship , and Kidman and Zane do generate real, palpable hatred in their scenes together. Note: The film is based on a novel by Charles Williams , which inspired an ill-fated Orson Welles project that was suspended in and then abandoned in with the death of his leading man, Laurence Harvey.
Rae eventually takes hold of a harpoon gun and locks herself in the bedroom. As the door opens she fires off a harpoon. Seeing blood she pushes it open, only to discover she killed her dog. Hughie comes out of hiding to strangle her, but passes out from the drugs. Rae ties him up and sails back to rescue John. Hughie comes to and cuts himself free with a shard of broken mirror, but after making his way to Rae, she shoots him in the shoulder with a harpoon and knocks him unconscious.
She then sets him adrift in the boat's life raft and continues to look for her husband. Meanwhile, the damage and the storm have caused the other boat to sink almost completely. The storm intensifies and breaks the boat's main mast, trapping John below deck. The water rises and eventually he is submerged over his head, able to breathe only through a piece of pipe leading to the deck.
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The only way he can go is down into the boat's hull, in search of an opening. He takes one last breath from the pipe and dives. Through a gaping hole in the bottom of the boat, John emerges back on the surface. He sets the wreck on fire to signal his location to Rae, who is now desperate to find him. Dusk sets in as Rae notices the flames and sets course to the faint fire on the horizon. Without any means to signal his wife, all John can do is wait on a piece of floating debris.
After night falls, the pair reunite when Rae arrives and pulls John aboard. Later they find the life raft and Rae shoots it with a flare, setting it on fire. The next day they are relaxing on deck when John takes a break from washing Rae's hair to prepare breakfast for her. Her eyes closed, Rae feels a pair of hands begin massaging her scalp and assumes it is John, but when she opens her eyes she sees a bloody Hughie, who begins to strangle her.
While Rae struggles, John arrives from below deck. Seeing Rae being attacked, John shoots Hughie in the mouth with a flare, killing him instantly. The movie is based on the novel Dead Calm by Charles Williams , which Orson Welles had started filming in the late s but never completed. Producer Tony Bill had tried to buy the rights from Welles but was never successful. He mentioned this to Phil Noyce, giving him a copy of the book in Noyce enjoyed the book and showed it to George Miller and Terry Hayes , who were enthusiastic.
Miller managed to persuade Oja Kodar , Welles' companion who controlled the rights to the novel, to sell the book to Kennedy Miller. Other than character names and the scenario of a woman trapped on a boat with a psychopath, the film bears little resemblance to the book, which had several other main characters including Hughie's wife and another couple , and presented Hughie as a nominally asexual manchild. The movie was filmed over a week span in Queensland 's Whitsunday Islands in the winter of George Miller directed some sequences himself, including one where Sam Neill's character is tormented in the boat by a shark.
This scene ended up being dropped from the final film. The final coda sequence was filmed at the request of Warner Bros seven months after principal photography finished. With accomplished editing by Richard Francis-Bruce and scoring by Graeme Revell , he finds lurking dangers in quiet, peaceful waters. On the other hand, Caryn James of The New York Times felt that the film was "an unsettling hybrid of escapist suspense and the kind of pure trash that depends on dead babies and murdered dogs for effect," and that Dead Calm "becomes disturbing for all the wrong reasons.
For much of the movie, you're enthralled. By the end, you're laughing. The acting was generally considered excellent, with Zane being cited for injecting "unforgettable humanity and evil puckishness into his role"  and being "suitably manic and evil. Martin's Griffin, The film was partly the inspiration for Hindi-language film Darr. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. This article's lead section does not adequately summarize key points of its contents. Please consider expanding the lead to provide an accessible overview of all important aspects of the article.
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May Theatrical release poster. Kennedy Miller. Retrieved 27 July Retrieved 10 November