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Abyss, The (1989 Ed Harris, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio)



After the deep space of Aliens, director James Cameron went to the other extreme with The Abyss, setting his film in the ocean’s deepest reaches. An American nuclear sub suffers a power failure and comes to rest on the lip of one of the ocean’s deepest trenches. Rescue arrives in the shape of an oil rig with a submersible capable of reaching the stricken sub and, led by Bud Brigman (Ed Harris) and his estranged wife Lindsey (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio), they discover a flooded craft inhabited by dead men.

But Lindsey and, subsequently, the rest of the crew, realise they are not alone and that something not of this world ‘lives’ in the trenches. Before they can discern its purpose, a crazed Navy SEAL, Lt Hiram Coffey (Michael Biehn), convinced they’re facing a Soviet threat, launches a nuclear bomb at the visitors and Brigman must descend deeper than any man has gone before to defuse it.

Cameron’s film is spectacular, from the drama of reaching the stricken sub as a hurricane brews, through the magical ‘encounters’ generated by Oscar-winners Industrial Light and Magic, to the nail-biting finale as Coffey’s actions threaten the world’s safety. Harris and Mastrantonio provide the emotional core, while Biehn is satisfyingly bonkers, and Cameron racks the tension up nicely throughout the film.

production details
USA | 139 minutes | 1989
Director: James Cameron
Script: James Cameron, Phillip Norwood,

Chris Elliott as Bendix
Ed Harris as Virgil ‘Bud’ Brigman
Leo Burmester as Catfish De Vries
J.C. Quinn as Arliss ‘Sonny’ Dawson
Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio as Lindsey Brigman
Michael Biehn as Lieutenant Hiram Coffey
Todd Graff as Alan ‘Hippy’ Carnes
John Bedford Lloyd as Jammer Willis
Kimberly Scott as Lisa ‘One Night’ Standing
Captain Kidd Brewer Jr. as Lew Finler
George Robert Klek as Wilhite
Christopher Murphy as Schoenick
Adam Nelson as Ensign Monk
Dick Warlock as Dwight Perry
Jimmie Ray Weeks as Leland McBride
J. Kenneth Campbell as DeMarco
Peter Ratray as Captain
Michael Beach as Barnes
Ken Jenkins as Gerard Kirkhill
Michael Chapman as Dr. Berg
William Wisher Jr. as Bill Tyler
Frank Lloyd as Navigator