The Abyss

D: James Cameron
20th Century Fox (Gale Anne Hurd)
USA 🇺🇸 1989
140 mins (Director's Cut 163 mins)

Science Fiction

W: James Cameron
DP: Mikael Solomon
Ed: Joel Goodman
Mus: Alan Silvestri
PD: Leslie Dilley
Cos: Deborah Everton

Ed Harris (Bud Brigman), Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio (Lindsey Brigman), Michael Beihn (Lt. Coffey), George Robert Klek (Wilhite), John Bedford Lloyd ('Jammer' Willis), Christopher Murphy (Seal Schoenick), Adam Nelson (Monk), J. C. Quinn ('Sonny' Dawson), Kimberly Scott (Lisa 'One Night' Standing)

This is a rather difficult film to review because it has a decent story, amazing visual effects and is very well made, unfortunately though, it is less than the sum of all of it's parts becoming a bit of a mish-mash which didn't quite reach it's full potential.  That being said, it does feature a scene which can only be described as an absolute modern classic, with Ed Harris & Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio arguing the best decision to escape from a sinking submersible.  It also gave birth to CGI effects and therefore has to be recognised as a milestone for this technical achievement.
The film attempts to inject some Cold War allegories into it, which don't really work, but as a standalone sci-fi/disaster movie it's enjoyable on that level.
A nuclear submarine has it's hull breached and comes to rest on the edge of a deep abyss. A team of Navy Seals then take charge of a deep-sea drilling rig with the mission of salvaging the nuclear warheads aboard the stricken vessel.  Things get dicey when alien life forms are spotted miles beneath the waves and the lieutenant in charge of the operation starts to crack up in the claustrophobic atmosphere and becomes psychotically paranoid.
The build up really deserves a better ending, but a director's cut of the movie gives more insight into the intentions of the extra-terrestrial beings.
The production design, visual effects and stunning underwater photography cannot be faulted, nor can the two lead performances. It could have been better, but also, this could have been much worse considering the standard of other deep sea horror/sci-fi movies released around the same time, especially those attempting to relocate the formula from Alien (qv) to beneath the waves.

The Abyss
The Abyss
Did You Know:
Ed Harris has publicly refused to speak about his experiences working on the film, saying "I'm not talking about The Abyss and I never will". The only register with Harris speaking about his experiences doing the movie is in the documentary Under Pressure: Making 'The Abyss' (1993). Similarly, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio said "The Abyss was a lot of things. Fun to make was not one of them."

Award Wins & Nominations:


Wins: 1 (Best Visual Effects)

Nominations: 6 (Best Actress in a Leading Role; Best Director; Best Cinematography; Best Film Editing; Best Production Design; Best Sound)


Wins: 1 (Best Visual Effects)

Nominations: 3 (Best Art Direction; Best Cinematography; Best Sound)


Wins: none

Nominations: none


Saturn Awards (Best Director); Motion Picture Sound Editors (Best Sound Editing); 20/20 Awards (Best Editing, Best Sound, Best Visual Effects); Yoga Awards (Worst Foreign Film)