Wednesday, 5 December 2012

FILM: The Abyss (8/10)

Why did I watch it?
Recorded this some time ago but having read The Hunt for Red October and watched some of the TV show Last Resort of late, I'm a little subsea crazy at the moment so the timing seemed perfect.

What's it all about?
A US submarine crashes in mysterious circumstances near the Cayman trench and a nearby prototype deep sea drilling platform is commandeered by US Navy SEAL team to investigate. Upon finding the stricken sub, the platform workers and SEALs come across an alien lifeform in the extreme depths.

Should you watch it?
The plot of James Cameron's fourth film shares many similarities with his third film, Aliens. Teams of armed forces with ultimately ulterior motives sent in to claustrophobic and isolated environments to investigate missing groups. Oh and those environments are occupied by aliens.
Here Alien, Alien, Alien....
Three-quarters of The Abyss are great as the ever-present dangers of deep sea isolation coupled with Michael Biehn's stir crazy SEAL ratchet up the tension to a decompression sickness-causing level . As the mission begins to fall apart, the greater fear factor is provided by the underwater drama, cut off from the surface in a damaged platform with decreasing oxygen levels rather than the alien presence. This is a little disappointing considering the film followed Aliens, in which there was no doubt what was responsible for the suspense. Cameron obviously felt like giving the Abyss aliens a more mysterious rather than menacing persona. 
This leads to a slightly disappointing finale as the alien presence is gradually revealed and all threat along with it. It all becomes a little unnecessarily enchanting.

Ed Harris leads the cast and gives an another excellent performance. Has this guy ever turned in a dud one? Mary Elisabeth Mastrantonio gives an equally assured performance as Harris' estranged wife and platform designer. The rekindling affection between the two is key to the film's success and the scene following Harris' return to the platform with Mastrantonio's body is genuinely emotional and fantastically performed by Harris.

For it's age, The Abyss still looks great and remains a good to great sci-fi thriller.

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