Film: The Abyss

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Film:

The Abyss

Director: James Cameron
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Distributor: 20th Century Fox

Meticulously crafted but also ponderous and predictable, James Cameron’s 1989 deep-sea close-encounter epic reaffirms one of the oldest first principles of cinema: everything moves a lot more slowly underwater. Ed Harris and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, as formerly married petroleum engineers who still have some “issues” to work out, are drafted to assist a gung-ho Navy SEAL (Michael Biehn) with a top-secret recovery operation: a nuclear sub has been ambushed and sunk, under mysterious circumstances, in some of the deepest waters on earth, and the petro-techies…

Reviews

Amazon.com

Meticulously crafted but also ponderous and predictable, James Cameron’s 1989 deep-sea close-encounter epic reaffirms one of the oldest first principles of cinema: everything moves a lot more slowly underwater. Ed Harris and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, as formerly married petroleum engineers who still have some “issues” to work out, are drafted to assist a gung-ho Navy SEAL (Michael Biehn) with a top-secret recovery operation: a nuclear sub has been ambushed and sunk, under mysterious circumstances, in some of the deepest waters on earth, and the petro-techies have the only submersible craft capable of diving down that far. Every image and every performance is painstakingly sharp and detailed (and the computerized water creatures are lovely) but the movie’s lumbering pace is ultimately lethal. It’s the audience that ends up feeling waterlogged. For a guy who likes guns as much as Cameron (his next film after all, was the body-count masterpiece Terminator 2: Judgment Day), it’s interesting that the moral balance here is weighted heavily in favor of the can-do engineers; the military types are end-justifies-the-means amoralists, just like the weasely government bureaucrats in Aliens. —David Chute

Barnes and Noble

James Cameron’s spectacular underwater adventure, which cost a then-unheard-of $50 million and was dismissed by many as a shipwreck of a movie, has nonetheless been a consistent bestseller on video. The Special Edition incorporates 28 minutes of footage excised from the theatrical release and restores the Titanic director’s original vision, filling plot holes left by the studio cuts. Ed Harris is an undersea oil-rig engineer hired by the Navy to investigate the mysterious immobilization of a nuclear submarine. His estranged wife and fellow specialist, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, comes along on the mission, as does paranoid naval lieutenant Michael Biehn, whose deteriorating mental health endangers them all. The discovery of alien life-forms underwater adds to the tension, which is further enhanced by Cameron’s claustrophobic settings. The restored footage answers most criticisms of this picture, enabling The Abyss to finally take its rightful place among the modern classics of sci-fi movies. Ed Hulse

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