The Abyss

The Abyss

Directed by: James Cameron

Friday, March 5 - Saturday, March 6, 2010

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“THE ABYSS confirms James Cameron as a world-class filmmaker… With a budget topping $40 million, [THE ABYSS] is many terrific things: the greatest underwater adventure ever filmed, the most consistently enthralling of the summer blockbusters, one of the best pictures of the year. It’s also something even more unexpected: a love story of shattering impact. Those who have written off Cameron as a whiz at hard action, hardware and little else should whet their palate for a feast of crow.

“Ed Harris is Bud Brigman, the rig foreman on a civilian underwater oil-drilling facility called Deepcore. Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio is Lindsey, Deepcore’s project engineer, boss lady and soon-to-be-former Mrs. Brigman. Cameron clearly knows from experience how shared labor can heat or chill a relationship. But THE ABYSS extends far beyond the parameters of his personal life.

“Cameron wrote a short story called “The Abyss” when he was seventeen, and the finished film retains traces of youthful innocence in its straight-on treatment of such verities as love, honor, duty, faith in a superior force and hope for a better day. Admirers of the dark and sinister ALIENS and THE TERMINATOR may worry that gonzo Cameron has wimped out. Hardly. Though The Abyss is his most positive film, he hasn’t turned Pollyanna. In this pressure cooker beneath the sea, he has created a microcosm in which each character’s capacity for good and evil is tested. The effect is relentlessly unnerving.

“Cameron is uncannily successful at creating a mounting feeling of claustrophobia. Some scenes, like the one in which the divers move through the stricken sub as drowned bodies float by in an eerie mockery of death, have a tragic beauty. Others, such as Bud’s towing an unconscious Lindsey in a lung-bursting swim to safety, could reduce an audience to raw panic. Even the first sighting of an NTI (Nonterrestrial Intelligence) skirts Spielbergian sentimentality to achieve a quiet sense of wonder.

“Cameron and a superb technical staff excel at making the fantastical look real. To turn The Abyss into an experience like no other, Cameron took an abandoned nuclear-reactor containment building in South Carolina, filled it with 7.5 million gallons of water and had his cast and some of the crew trained to dive. Then he tossed the lot of them into the drink at depths of up to fifty-five feet. Underwater films are often shot on a sound stage, with smoke and light giving the effect of submersion while actors muck about in fake slow motion. Not this time. What you see and hear in The Abyss has a you-are-there immediacy that makes other undersea films look hopelessly hokey. This is monumental, mold-breaking entertainment.

“The three leads are outstanding. Biehn makes us feel compassion for the lethal Coffey, led astray by his twisted sense of duty. Harris has never been better or more appealing, bringing nuance, humor and gravity to the role of the blue-collar hero who’d risk his life faster than risk exposing his feelings. Still, the movie belongs to Mastrantonio. In a summer dominated by male action heroes, she has the strongest woman’s role and instills it with beauty, brains and a spiky wit that rank her with the top actresses of her generation; she is mesmerizing and indelibly moving.

“Cameron may have fashioned his film out of familiar parts, but he’s put them together in a way that demands fresh attention and respect. There’s poetry in the images; THE ABYSS is pulp transcended. With probing intelligence and passionate feeling, Cameron has raised the adventure film very close to the level of art.” – Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

PG-13, 138 Minutes
USA, 1989




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