Blu Mankuma and James Garner in Dead Silence (1997)

Radio Silence

Having just come back from a hearing over his conduct during a previous situation, FBI agent John Potter (James Garner) finds himself thrown straight back into action. That action involves three escaped prisoners led by Theodore 'Ted' Handy (Kim Coates) who have taken a group of deaf students and their teacher hostage. Whilst John does everything he can to negotiate with Ted to get the release of the hostages he is assisted by Melanie (Marlee Matlin), the children's teacher who uses sign language to relay messages to the agents.

"Dead Silence" is one of those made for TV movies which will take many by surprise as TV movies generally have a bad rep but this one highlights exactly how good they can be. And the reason that "Dead Silence" is so good is that to start with it has plenty going on from John Potter having had issues over the way he does things to a local statesman taking upon himself to interfere. We also have one of the escaped prisoners being a rapist whilst one of the local cops who assists John is a young enthusiastic hero. Basically the writers have come up with plenty of characters, back stories and issues to makes this a movie with always something going on whilst delivering the expectations that there are going to be twists.

Marlee Matlin in Dead Silence (1997)

But of course the main thing going on is this situation where we have Melanie, a deaf teacher trying to be the woman on the inside assisting the FBI, signing to them. The thing is that whilst this gives "Dead Silence" a USP it never feels like it is the main focus because the writers have filled the movie with subplots and characters. Yes the work of Melanie turns out to be pivotal to how the movie plays out and gives it plenty of excitement but the writers have really done a fantastic job of filling the story out.

What "Dead Silence" also has is the calibre of acting with the likes of James Garner, Kim Coates and Marlee Matlin all delivering solid characters and bringing them to life. As such when we meet Officer Stevie Cardy, played by Scott Speedman, you can believe he was the high school quarterback with that heroic side and as such is prepared to storm the place to save the children. Credit to those who cast this movie because they got each part spot on.

What this all boils down to is that "Dead Silence" is actually an impressive made for TV movie which keeps you engaged in what is going on from start to finish. Whilst a big part of that comes down to the actors and what they bring to the movie, for me it is the writers who are the real stars for delivering something which is filled with detail, drama and interesting characters