September 3, 2013

Open Water

Chris Kentis, 2003


Romantic couple Susan (Blanchard Ryan) and Daniel (Daniel Travis) go scuba diving while on vacation in the Caribbean. After their boat miscounts the passengers it leaves without them, leaving them stranded in the shark infested waters.

It's probably a very familiar nightmare in many peoples eyes. Stuck in the ocean, not knowing whats below you in the infinite depth or not knowing when or if a safety vessel is coming for you. Do they even know that you are gone? It's an interesting idea, but this limited storytelling piece is limited in a lot of other areas. The immediate jump start of the film feels like you are getting pushed into cold water without warning. Soon you see zoom shots that are downright confusing, almost as if the button was broken on the camera and can activate at a moments notice. Why zoom in on the clamshell phone? It's amateurish. You soon feel alone (before you even leave for vacation), because the lack of character development leaves you relying on the performances of to pull you in. But they don't offer much. Ryan and Travis certainly don't deliver electrifying performances. You know their characters are busy, business-types. They never get a vacation, and they finally get one. But there's not much more there. Danny Boyle taught the world that you can paint a colorful picture with limited story as he did in 127 Hours. James Franco really delivered a complex performance and you were caught up in his dilemma. You were rooting for him. When you have a bland landscape of rippling ocean currents and the mostly periodic shark fin protruding through the surface, you really need the acting to carry the film. There are no ebbs and flows to Open Water. It has the excitement of observing a fish tank with the charm of watching a buoy float. There is so much room for improvement. In fact, similar-themed The Reef played on shark fears, and did it much better. And who cares if the shark was very obviously CGI'd. Nobody is looking for perfection there. The animatronic Jaws shark stills haunts us forty years later. But comparing Kentis to Spielberg would be like comparing Joel Schumacher to Stanley Kubrick.

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