Review of 'The Abyss ("Special Edition")'

the_abyss.jpg The crew of a deep-sea test drilling platform on the bed of the ocean are enlisted by the navy to help rescue any survivors of the Montana, a US submarine that has gone down in mysterious circumstances. The crew are joined by a group of Navy Seals headed by Lt. Hiram Coffey (Michael Biehn) as well as the rig's designer Dr. Lindsey Brigman (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio) who is furious at “her” rig being used for this mission. Her dominating and intimidating presence is not a picnic for the rest of rig crew either nor particularly to her estranged husband Virgil “Bud” Brigman (Ed Harris) who is their foreman. When the rig reaches the stricken submarine Lindsey's shuttle loses power and she sees some unusual lights moving swiftly through the water which she is convinced is alien. Later encounters make it clear to the rest that she might be right. It is also obvious that Coffey is suffering from acute paranoia as a symptom of High Pressure Nervous Syndrome (HPNS) when he orders his team to recover a nuclear warhead from the downed sub to destroy these unexpected visitors…

I have always enjoyed this film from big-screen master James Cameron. There is so much here that is interesting not the least of which is the deep-sea habitat, the realities of deep-sea occupation, and the other technical aspects such as the deep-diving fluid breathing system which are convincingly realised in the film. All of this really fired my imagination and had (and still has) me utterly enthralled. Despite being shot in the late 1980s the effects still stand up today. The action is great as well with the audience on the edge of their seats as one disaster follows another. We are never sure whether any will survive from one extreme event to the next (the sight of the suited Bud towing the body of his wife through the water to the platform still sends chills down my spine). It might seem a bit of a stretch to have aliens here at all but it simply adds to the feeling of claustrophobia and paranoia that really compels this film forward - Are they friends, or are they out to get us?

I would like to mention the memorable and epic score by Jack Nitzsche really helps capture the feelings of the film and helps focus the viewer on the magic of the moment. His delicate orchestration introduces themes that resonate throughout the film – The inky blackness of the sea-bad, the action and tragedy that unfolds on the screen. Pitch-perfect and beautiful.

The special edition of “The Abyss” adds 28 minutes to the original film that really adds greatly to an understanding of what is going on and relaxing the pace so we are much better able to enjoy the story…I have to admit on my repeated viewings of the film I rarely now watch the original version of the film.

Often overlooked in light of other Cameron films “The Abyss” is an unusual and convincing thriller that is well worth a watch (though make sure you see the special edition).

Rating: “I have absolutely no complaints”

Review Date: 2019-11-17

Directed by: James Cameron

Studio: Twentieth Century Fox

Year: 1989

Length: 171 minutes

Genre: Action/Adventure

Other reviewed films by James Cameron: