Open Water
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir-scr Chris Kentis
with Blanchard Ryan, Daniel Travis, Michael E Willimson, Saul Stein, Christina Zenarro, Jon Charles, Estelle Lau
release US 20.Aug.04, UK 10.Sep.04
Lions Gate
04/US 1h19

Swimming with sharks (and no digital trickery): Travis and Ryan.
Open Water This micro-budget suspense film generates more actual tension than nine out of 10 Hollywood thrillers. Like The Blair Witch Project, it's a little simplistic and repetitive; but unlike that film, it has real characters and a constant tone that's unbearably terrifying.

When they head for a tropical beach holiday, Susan and Daniel (Ryan and Travis) are trying to both escape their over-busy life and re-ignite a lifeless marriage. Early one morning they head out for a scuba dive in the ocean, something that seems to be a rare joint passion. But the dive crew miscounts as divers return to the boat, leaving Susan and Daniel stranded in the open water. Then a shark swims past.

Isolating two loving-but-antagonistic people at sea for an entire movie is a risky proposition (the actors were reportedly in the water for more than 120 hours during filming), so writer-director Kentis does his best to keep things happening, either through dialog or events. Astonishingly, Kentis uses no effects trickery at all, and footage of the actors literally swimming with sharks and jellyfish sends genuine chills down your spine. The plot wavers here and there--a couple of awkward sequences involving boats and buoys are baffling--and even though it's "based on true events", surely a dive boat crew couldn't be as clueless as portrayed here (although apparently they can be!).

Ryan and Travis are very good within the confines of their setting; we can only see their heads bobbing on the surface for about 80 percent of the film! The pre-dive scenes are so bracingly natural that we really get a grip on their tense relationship. We feel almost like voyeurs watching these intimate scenes. Kentis' direction and editing are sharp and vivid, making the most out of the horrific situation while countering the couple's emotional meltdown ("I wanted to go skiing!") with the constant realisation that they're shark bait. Yes, it's a little dull as these two terrified people drift along whining about their predicament, but there's always a jolt to stop our hearts. Kentis puts us in a continual state of panic right along with them. And when night falls, it's even worse.

cert 15 themes, language, suspense, nudity, some grisliness 17.Jun.04

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... Open Water Leticia, Selma: 1/5 "It wasn't worth my 2 hrs and my money." (25.Sep.04)

Bryan, L.A.: 5/5 "This is simply one of the scariest movies I've ever seen! I literally could not sit still. I would never have guessed that it was only 79 minutes long because from the moment they hit the water until the end of the movie seemed like an eternity. It was almost unbearable to watch. The thunderstorm sequence, in my opinion, should go down as one of the all time great horror/thriller sequences. And the film's understated ending hammers in the dread and haunts you well after you leave the theater. I honestly don't see how a human being could not be scared by this movie. It does exactly what it sets out to do and does it very, very well." (11.Aug.04)

Georgia, Australia: 4/5 "i actually really liked this movie. i think that this movie shows people that this can happen to anyone. and as a diver i believe that its very high that it could happen to anyone. i really thought this movie was great!" [3.Jan.07]

Jordan, Rotherham: 4/5 "This movie exceeded my expectations. With Kentis's smart directing and editing the film has a riot of intense claustrophobia and terror. The film is definately worth a look at, especially the storm scene! Although at times the movie is a little dull, and could do with a bit more bite, it is all-in-all an intense thriller." (30.Jan.09)

© 2004 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall