I know I often begin these reviews saying I don’t like something or someone but I took a chance and saw such-and-such movie anyway. Well, here I go again. I do not like Nicole Kidman, but I took a chance and watched this one after I’d heard quite a few positive things. And, I was pleasantly surprised. I always like Sam Neill so that part wasn’t much of a stretch, but I usually try to give Kidman movies a wide birth. Ignore my rant about that, it is a good thriller…and even if you don’t like Nicole, try it. Why? Well, it would have to be something pretty good to overlook the “Kidman” factor. And, it is. This is a methodical thriller that takes place almost entirely on two boats. Neill and Kidman are husband and wife who’ve just lost their only child. Neill, a naval officer, takes his wife on a long sailboat trip to try and ease her pain and guilt (the child died while she was driving) of losing her son. While at sea, Neill spots a boat that appears to be in trouble. One of its passengers is heading toward them in a dingy. They take him aboard and he tells the couple that all of the passengers he was sailing with have died. Neill, not believing this story, heads to the other boat…finding out that the people didn’t just die…they were murdered. That’s a big problem, especially since he left his wife on his boat alone…with the murderer! Neill gives an excellent performance and Billy Zane is particularly menacing as the psychotic murderer. And, Kidman is…OK, which is pretty high praise from me. Dead Calm does one of the best jobs ever of giving a realistic feeling of claustrophobia. Even though they are in the middle of the ocean, we continuously feel trapped…which is something that only heightens the suspense. A great thriller!

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In Dial M for Murder, Hitchcock shoots an entire film on one set. In Rope, he not only just uses one set, he also experiments with long takes…using only 5 or 6 takes to complete a full-length feature. Where did he get these ideas from…? Well, in 1944, four years before Rope and ten years before Dial M For Murder, there was Lifeboat. Based on a John Steinbeck story, this film takes place IN A BOAT at sea. A ship has gone done (it happens before the movie even begins) and we see Tallulah Bankhead in a small-ish dingy, adrift. As the film progresses, more and more people find their way to the lifeboat, including a German, who might or might not be captain of the ship that bombed the American ship, sinking it. For an hour and a half, this film deals with the way these people all get together and relate with each other and the impending doom they face if not rescued. A well done, thought provoking film…that is more drama than thriller, but tense enough to be something from The Master of Suspense.

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