Open Water

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Movie Reviews by EDF & Mary-Louise Pericleous

Starring: Blanchard Ryan, Daniel Travis, Saul Stein, Estelle Lau

Director: Chris Kentis

Review by EDF

There are a lot of movies produced these days that contain some sort of CGI effect. Some are used subtly while others are used as overkill and sometimes to cover up a weak script. OPEN WATER takes us back to basics where character development within the confines of an unusual situation is the driving force of this movie. Whether the fact there are less than a dozen people with speaking parts or that most of the action is set in one particular location, this should not deter people from watching the movie. However, it is the realism that those involved making this movie have risked their lives in producing a story that will seem and feel real and will also intrigue, frighten and have people guessing what the outcome will be.

Based on a true story about a holiday that did not quite turn out as it was supposed to, it follows an American couple Daniel (Daniel Travis) and Susan (Blanchard Ryan) who force themselves to go off on a break away from their busy professional lives. They arrive at a tropical resort and book a dive trip for the following morning. There they share a boat with eighteen other divers as they head out to the dive site known as Magic Kingdom. Their dive guide takes a head count and describes the sort of wildlife they will see including sharks that are apparently not aggressive. The divers are given a time limit for when they are supposed to return to the boat.

Daniel and Susan have a fantastic time exploring and swimming along checking out the wildlife on view. But when Daniel and Susan resurface five minutes late for the rendezvous, the dive boat is nowhere in sight. After a lot of shouting for help, they are confronted with the threat of being surrounded by sharks. After a while both of them experience sharp pains as they float towards a school of jellyfish. They manage to swim away from the danger but things still do not go their way as they unsuccessfully try to catch the attention of a passing ship. Exhausted, they both fall asleep and Susan wakes up to find that they have both drifted away from each other.

To make the situation believable, the movie was shot during weekends, on holiday time and twenty miles away from shore. Both actors clocked over 120 hours in the water that was filled with all sorts of sea life, including sharks. So that means that the sharks featured are authentic in the way they swim around the two leads, making this an even more tense movie than Spielberg’s JAWS could. This is also a character study of how two people who are obviously in love with each other cope through a situation that could break them or worse. The way the open ocean is used as a character itself where danger could be unexpectedly present at any time will bring you closer to the two characters. The ending of the movie though is a let down. It is not so much what happens to Daniel and Susan but more so the lack of an exciting climax that could have been made through editing. Due to this, it loses one mark in the ratings. Low budget but high on suspense.

5 out of 6 stars
Review by Mary-Louise Pericleous

Based on true events this is a story about a workaholic American couple who, to escape their busy and hectic lives begin a holiday in paradise. Lazing around the beach in the heat, soaking up plenty of sun, surrounded by the big blue ocean, they are able to finally relax. However, paradise soon turns to hell when an ill-fated scuba diving trip goes terribly wrong and the couple are stranded alone out in OPEN WATER! As the jelly fish and the sharks move in closer the couple become more traumatised and their hopes sink deeper and deeper.

OPEN WATER was inspired by the disappearance of Tom and Eileen Lonergan, who in 1998, were left behind by their diving boat off the coast of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. The stars of the film, Blanchard Ryan and Daniel Travis, spent more than 120 hours in the water during filming. Interestingly, even though the actors wore a chain mesh under their wet suits, a barracuda bit Blanchard Ryan. Thankfully, shark wrangler Stuart Cove was on hand at all times to tame the sharks, as no special or digital effects were used.

This horror/thriller film has gone back to the basic film techniques with a minimum budget and no special effects and yet, director Chris Kentis possesses the ability to deliver a unique cinematic experience in which your emotions are stirred. The film has a documentary feel to it, which is depicted through the use of the hand-held camera and the, often abrupt, edited scenes. The music and silence in the film most definitely creates an ambience. A graceful and sombre beat begins, slow in pace and then quickens at points of climax where the tension is almost unbearable. The silence, equally as effective, if not more, leaves you on the edge of your seat wanting to know what is going to happen next. Running parallel to this are the visual images, where sharks swim dangerously close to the couple and then suddenly the screen turns black leaving you literally in the dark! This evokes you to sympathise with the characters and plead with them for their rescue.

However the film seems to be cut short at 77minutes long, preventing the opportunity for character development and the dialogue between the couple becomes rather predictable at times. Nevertheless, the actors manage to exemplify their characters’ traumatic and horrific emotions in the tantalising situation that surrounds them. The couple’s conversation and deadly silence works effectively in portraying their state of mind and their psychological deterioration begins to surface.

OPEN WATER is filled with ocean scenes of shock and terror, and yet, there are a few shots of that same ocean in an awe of beauty, where it becomes difficult to tell where the sea ends and the sky begins.

Watch out for those scenes!

WORD OF ADVICE: Make sure your diving instructor remembers your face next time you dive into OPEN WATER!!!

4 out of 6 stars