The Oscar Project Reviews
Long before director James Cameron took us on the most famous ocean voyage of the 20th century, he embarked on an undersea adventure that taxed everyone involved, but still manages to hold up over 30 years later.
The Abyss (affiliate link) features a small crew of Navy SEALs traveling to a deep sea oil drilling platform with the mission of finding a nuclear submarine that crashed nearby and retrieve the warheads before the Soviets can get to them. The team is led by Cameron regular Michael Biehn playing Lieutenant Hiram Coffey. Ed Harris is in excellent form here as the platform’s foreman, Virgil "Bud" Brigman alongside Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio as Dr. Lindsey Brigman, Bud’s estranged wife and designer of the special platform.
After recently reading a book all about Cameron’s films and learning what went into making this film, I’m not at all surprised by how well the underwater photography holds up all these years later. True, there are a few instances where it’s a bit clunky and could be done better today with digital images. But the look and feel of all the underwater scenes are generally superb, owed in large part to the insistence by Cameron that most of them be shot in an enormous tank built specifically for the film.
The ending of the film feels a bit unearned by the rest of the story and the last five minutes of the film feel like Cameron just didn’t know how to end things and wrote “and they all lived happily ever after” on the last page of the script. The visuals and technology are a sight to behold even many years later, but all that doesn’t make up for a story that feels unfinished.
7 out of 10