Sometimes, When You Look Into The Abyss, You Look Beyond The Abyss

My beautiful wife is traveling for business this week, which means it’s film festival time at Nogglestead. In the olden days, I’d watch two or three a night, but now I have children who like to get up at 5:30 in the morning, so it’s only one a night. Last night, I watched the James Cameron film The Abyss from 1989 (twenty-three years old? How old am I then?).

VHS coverI hadn’t seen it before, but I found it to be a perfectly serviceable little action/science fictioner. It’s a real bummer that the “bad guy” in this is really just a Navy SEAL suffering from temporary insanity induced by the pressure change being under the sea. As such, I really felt kinda bad for him throughout the film and hoped he’d be redeemed somehow.

But that’s neither here nor there. As I’m watching the film, I’m struck by some of the meta considerations about the actors and whatnot in the film.


  • Mary Jane Mastratonio has appeared in two films involving hurricanes: this one and The Perfect Storm where she plays the role of Linda Greenlaw (whose book The Lobster Chronicles I read three years ago.
  • Ed Harris has played more men named Virgil than any other actor in Hollywood, probably. His character in The Abyss is named Virgil, and he played Virgil Cole in the 2008 western Appaloosa, which I watched in January.
  • In a tense moment in the film, Mastratonio’s character says to Harris’s character, “It’s not an option.” Failure, that is. A couple years later, Ed Harris would say “Failure is not an option” in another film, and it would become overly quoted. Was it homage to this film? Perhaps.

At any rate, it was a good enough picture, but I suppose it could be said that it did not draw me into the world enough so that I would forget the actors in it and that it was a movie with its place in history.

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