The Abyss

abyss.jpgAudiences failed to flock to James Cameron’s budget-busting (what else is new?) sci-fi adventure, though it should have been a hit (and might have been if not for its lethal mid-August release date). It didn’t help that this was the third 1989 underwater film in a row, after DeepStar Six and Leviathan. It’s one of the most intense movies you’ll ever see. A nuclear sub is disabled by mysterious forces and sinks in the Cayman Trench. A team of oil-rig mechanics, led by estranged couple Ed Harris and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, are assigned to recover the sub, which contains valuable missiles. Joining them are a group of military grunts headed by Michael Biehn, who succumbs to High Pressure Nervous System and promptly goes nuts. While the crew pokes around the submerged wreck, the rig itself is damaged and things look fairly bleak until a bunch of luminescent Spielbergian special effects ­­ the aquatic aliens who had innocently sunk the sub ­­ save the day. Sometimes too high on testosterone and posturing, with some really terrible dialogue (“Roger Ramjet”?), but still a sweatbox classic, suffocatingly claustrophobic at times. As with many Cameron boot-camps, the production was reportedly not a lot of fun for cast and crew; Ed Harris was quoted at the time, “I’m not talking about The Abyss. And I never will.” Score by Alan Silvestri; cinematography by Mikael Salomon. The groundbreaking visual effects (the first extensive use of CGI) won an Oscar.

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