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The Abyss

A 1989 science fiction film directed by James Cameron.

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One of James Cameron's best films!

  • Dec 19, 2008
  • by
"The Abyss" is the most thought-provoking, imaginative, and beautiful science fiction film that I've ever seen. Master filmmaker and craftsman James Cameron brings us another thoughtful sci-fi epic behind "The Terminator" (1984) and "Aliens" (1986), two films that played brilliantly with Cold War-era paranoia and here, he brings us something that could possibly be the director's most introspective piece.

The film begins with the sinking of an American nuclear submarine that was brought down under mysterious circumstances. The navy commandeers a civilian drilling rig to enter the sub and search for survivors. But this ragtag group of blue-collar workers, led by Bud Brigman (Ed Harris) and his ex-wife Lindsey (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio), are plagued by a Navy SEAL team's insane leader, Lt. Coffey (Michael Biehn), and a series of bizarre underwater occurrences that could prove that they're not alone on the ocean floor.

"The Abyss" boasts one of the most compelling science fiction stories of any sci-fi film in the past 20 years. It was James Cameron's third and most powerful film, but it wasn't his best, at least according to his hardcore audience and certain critics, despite its groundbreaking computer animation effects and story.

Even though my review is based on the 1992 special edition, one cannot help but wonder why THIS is not the version that was released in theaters back in 1989. But of course, overzealous executives played heavily into the film's troublesome release, and erased the most significant subplot of the story, with regards to the extraterrestrial visitors that plague the protagonists.

Now upon the revelation of this information, one might be tempted to recall "The Day the Earth Stood Still," and what it stood for back in 1951 when it was released. Desperate times, like today in 2004, call for a movie like this to be viewed by a public that is disillusioned with itself and its overseers in Washington, D.C.

"The Abyss" is a radical call for peace, in that both of these films tell stories of otherworldly visitors who descend from the heavens (in this case, underspace) to tell humans to cease their violent, self-destructive ways.

And perhaps "The Abyss" is the most political and out-right vocal of Cameron's films; it is arguably the best of a crop of sci-fi films in a very long time that are tailor-made for essential viewing.

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May 22, 2010
I was thinking about writing a review of The Abyss but I see there is no point.
More The Abyss reviews
review by . October 02, 2010
Deeper than Pandora, better too
What was your first impression?      The very first time I saw this movie I thought it was great until the end.  Then it fell kind of flat.  But then came the *Special Edition* which is 25 minutes longer and has a completely different ending. Plot summary?      A US nuclear sub is lost in very deep water under unusual circumstances.  Unfortunately a hurricane is coming into the area and a stop gap method is used to attempt a rescue.  …
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Hey everyone! Here's a little bit about me. I'm 25 and live in Kansas. I've lived here for almost 7 years now(wow, I can't believe it's been that long!) before moving here I lived in Tucson Arizona for … more
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About this movie


The Abyss is a 1989 science fiction film written and directed by James Cameron. It stars Ed Harris, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, and Michael Biehn. The original musical score was composed by Alan Silvestri. It was released on August 9, 1989 in the United States.

Underwater scenes were filmed in the containment building of Cherokee Nuclear Power Plant an unfinished nuclear power plant near Gaffney, South Carolina, in the United States. It took seven million gallons (26.5 million liters) of water to fill the tank to a depth of 40 feet (12 m), making it the largest underwater set ever. The depth and length of time spent underwater meant that the cast and crew sometimes had to go through decompression. Filming was also done at the largest underground lake in the world—a mine in Bonne Terre, Missouri, which was the background for several underwater shots. B movie maker Earl Owensby of Shelby, NC, provided facilities for set and production.

The official novelization of the same title was written by Orson Scott Card. As it was written concurrently with filming, Card's insight into the characters was often added to the script and to the actors' portrayals.

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