The Abyss (1989)
What can be done today in cgi-special effects is apparently limitless, but it also makes a film like James Cameron's The Abyss even more technically impressive. Largely filmed underwater without stuntmen, it is a unique technical achievement with a handful of majestic physical performances from its actors. Cameron isn't the director who demands the most subtle thespian performances, but he's an industrious filmmaker who makes films where the energy and effort put into the production shines through. This is one of the things that make The Abyss such an intense, high-octane and incredibly suspenseful experience. Like always, Cameron deploys a collection of tough-minded, no-nonsense macho characters. His women are rarely embracing their femininity and his men always are clever non-intellectuals. Initially, they border on caricatures, but when Cameron teams them up and brings on his intriguing set-up, we forget all that. As with The Terminator, Cameron's ability of making the most spectacular of action seem perfectly logical, makes the film thoroughly interesting thematically. And he intertwines high-tech realism with Close Encounterish, dreamy science fiction in impressive fashion. One of Ed Harris' finest performances, and a great inspiration for Brian De Palma's subsequent masterpiece Mission to Mars.