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August 18, 2004

Open Water Review

— Posted by John Campea

Our good friend Big Bald Dave just sent in a review he wrote of Open Water for his lovely Imagine ‘Dat website. Does he like it? You bet. Read on for his thoughts …

“Independent movies are perceived quite a bit differently than they used to be both by critics and by consumers. With a string of successful very low budget films having hit mainstream theatres in the last few years, people just expect more and are by extension willing to forgive less of filmmakers hampered by budget, etc. I predict Open Water, while still doing solid box office, will be hampered by its strengths more than by its weaknesses. This is a much more intelligent film than audiences, who because of marketing are paying to be scared, will want to see.

It’s also a deceptively simple film and therein lays its power. Instead of catapulting us from one event to another we are left, like the characters, alone, adrift if you will. The terror emerges out of the sense of isolation and though sharks and other aquatic conventions play a part in this, there is a sense of hopeless dread, a sucking whirlpool. To be alone in the ocean is to be utterly alone even if you’re with someone you love. It calls the very nature of love into question.

Susan and Daniel are a couple in dire need of a vacation from their workaholic lifestyle. A last minute decision, motivated by the needs of Susan’s job, leads them to choose a vacation that includes a diving jaunt. All goes well until they surface only to discover the boat is not there. Soon the pair is adrift, in waters they know to be frequented by sharks.

The movie does a lot to set the characters up for us, a wise move since we spend most of Open Water with the couple as they bob up and down through the waves. As mentioned above the couple does encounter various aquatic bogies but they struggle mainly with each other and their own growing sense of terror in their situation. Arguments arise about whose dumb idea the vacation was in the first place, about money, work and finally the couple’s relationship itself. To call Open Water a downer is a bit of an understatement. For those concerned with spoilers, believe me I’ve revealed less than you think and thinking is something you want to do while watching this film.

Made over a process of three years Open Water is utterly independent. The director and producer Рwho also, like the couple in the film, happen to be married Рput up the miniscule budget of $120,000 dollars. Initially there wasn’t even a score for the film so while comparisons to Jaws are tempting they are also somewhat disingenuous. Jaws, which is a studio masterpiece no doubt, features in the end one lone man against an inhuman enemy, an enemy he vanquishes in an indifferent environment. Without the shark there is no reason to suspect that Brody wouldn’t simply float home. In Open Water the ocean itself becomes the enemy, the indifference of the vast expanse is set against the human bodies need for water, food, shelter. The ocean seems to mock even as it ignores becoming an environment that is at once familiar and alien.

For such a cheaply made film Open Water is tightly written, well photographed and contains solid performances from its leads. There is a bit of blurring that probably has to do with blowing the film up from it’s source but overall the realism that’s achieved, especially in the shark sequences is unbearable. For a film that spends most of its time with two characters adrift in an ocean there is surprisingly little sense of the camera’s presence.

I really can‚Äôt recommend Open Water more highly. Suspenseful, thought provoking, you should go see Open Water for more than just the sharks.”

Big Bald Dave

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  • http://www.garethjmsaunders.co.uk Gareth J M Saunders

    I’ve just watched this movie on pay-per-view on cable too. The only preparation I’d had for it was the few trailers I’d seen at the cinema sometime last year. All I knew was that a couple were stranded out in the ocean after a diving trip. I expected tension, I expected a long wait, I expected them to be rescued. Well, you would, wouldn’t you! It’s that kind of movie, isn’t it? Humankind vs. nature. We always come out on top, don’t we?

    I was very impressed with this movie. I wonder what those who’ve said that they hate this movie were looking for in it, what were you hoping for? What would you do if you were stranded in the ocean? Swim for shore? (What direction?) Wait for the boat to return (They will come back … won’t they?) This movie doesn’t answer any questions for you. It makes you think. (If you are willing to do so.) It doesn’t take the easy option and satisfy you with a cheap and cheesy ending. A lot of films I finish watching and I feel bigger and better and able to do anything — after this one I feel suitably put into place: a six foot four man on a huge, water-covered planet.

  • rob

    Just saw this movie on pay per view TV. What a load of crap, I was so bored after just a few minutes. The acting from the couple in the water is truly awful, especially from the wife or girlfriend character. When the sharks are around she tries to act scared but it’s so unconvincing – she acts like it’s a mouse or spider she’s seen rather than a man eating shark that could kill her! Dialogue is ridiculous, in fact the whole film sucks, one of the worst I’ve ever seen. Totally overhyped, don’t believe anyone who says this is a good movie!

  • Dymples

    I saw it last night and I am a scuba diver who has been on many many dives. I actually could understand how the divers felt as the time went by and the fact that they really couldn’t believe they were actually forgotten. That is why, in my humble opinion, you don’t see them freak out so much for most of the movie…they truly believe that they are going to be rescued and that the entire incident will be over. They truly believe that one of the passing boats will rescue them. I think that it is really easy for the regular moviegoer to judge the movie…especially if they haven’t gone diving on a regular basis. I was mesmerized by the film and thought it was shot just how it was…that is how the water is when you are out there and I could feel their desperate isolation. The nonsensical banter they went through was something they did to try not to actually deal with what was happening to them. Just my opinion.

  • evergreen

    I keep an open mind to other people’s opinions, and that’s why I ended up seeing Open Water.

    That taught me better.

  • Kelly

    This movie was horrible. The characters were paper-thin and so was the “plot.” The fact that it is independant does not make it more artsy, more interesting, or a better movie. It just makes a good EXCUSE.

    I’ve seen MANY independant films, so in response to the person who belittled the negative reviews: NO, it is NOT true that people are disliking this movie because they want “Hollywood.” They dislike the movie because they want a GOOD, interesting, possibly entertaining movie.

    This ain’t it.

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