Though not always entirely credible, Dead Calm is a nail-biting suspense pic [from the novel by Charles Williams] handsomely produced and inventively directed.
It’s basically a three-hander: a happily married couple John and Rae Ingram (Sam Neill and Nichole Kidman), have found peace alone on the Pacific on their well-equipped yacht after the trauma of the death of their baby son in a car accident when they’re threatened by a vicious, unstable young killer, Hughie (Billy Zane).
They come to Hughie’s aid initially, when he seeks help, but Ingram doesn’t believe his story that the passengers and crew on the decrepit yacht he’s abandoned all died from food poisoning. Leaving Hughie asleep, Ingram goes across to the delapidated vessel to discover dead bodies in the bilges and a video tape indicating that a deranged Hughie killed them.
While he’s away, Hughie awakens, overpowers Rae, and sets sail in the opposite direction, abandoning Ingram.
Throughout the film, Kidman is excellent. She gives the character of Rae real tenacity and energy. Neill is good, too, as a husband who spends most of the film unable to contact his wife, and Yank newcomer Zane is suitably manic and evil as the deranged Hughie.