Pop Culture, High and Low, Past and Present.
One Day at a Time.

Email me:
vince AT vincekeenan DOT com

    Follow me on Twitter

    Wednesday, August 18, 2004

    Movie: Open Water (2004)

    So now scuba diving’s off my to-do list. Not that it was all that high up to begin with.

    There isn’t much I can say about this movie. Partly because I don’t want to give anything away, and partly because there’s not much to it. A vacationing couple gets left behind when they go scuba diving. They drift out to sea. They are menaced by sharks. That’s it. The movie is as stripped down as they come in terms of budget, cast, and theme. Which has pluses and minuses.

    Filmmakers Chris Kentis and Laura Lau know how to work quickly; the movie is only 80 minutes long. They sketch out the hectic lives of Daniel and Susan (Daniel Travis and Blanchard Ryan) in an opening scene that’s uncomfortably familiar: last-minute phone calls to the office, a debate about whether to bring a laptop. Arriving in the Caribbean brings a whole new set of pressures, summed up by Daniel’s attempt to cajole Susan into a little vacation sex. (It’s good to see a movie with actors who are attractive in a non-Hollywood way. As for Ryan’s nude scene ... yowza.)

    Then they get on the boat. Kentis and Lau ratchet up the suspense, showing us the commonplace seeds of tragedy: a forgotten dive mask, a botched head count. They’re better at exploring the physical toll on the couple (Susan’s Dramamine wears off, dehydration sets in) than the emotional one, which they wisely contain to a single argument in which each blames the other for their fate. Then the couple get stung by jellyfish. Everyone at the resort gets drunk. A thunderstorm rolls in. Sharks start circling.

    Which brings me to OPEN WATER’s biggest problem: there’s no story. The only question is will this nice, harried couple be rescued. It’s not a movie so much as a dramatized vignette from a diving magazine. 1997’s THE EDGE is a similar tale of people trapped in the wild, with a bear substituted for sharks. In that film, writer David Mamet sets up a complex dynamic between the characters, and how that is resolved matters almost as much as whether they live. There are other issues at stake aside from mere survival. Here, it’s the whole show.

    On those terms, OPEN WATER is a success. A primal terror – not of sharks, but of being forgotten by the world – is explored with a minimum of fuss. If anything, the low budget enhances the sense of danger; the actors are clearly thisclose to live sharks. And the ending packs a wallop. It’s an awe-inspiring display of the highest kind of grace under the most intense pressure.

    Miscellaneous: Link

    Jeffrey Wells inaugurates the new home of ‘Hollywood Elsewhere’ with a column about movies that should be on DVD. It’s a good one, although considering that THE BATTLE OF ALGIERS will be out later this year, I’d pull that in favor of THE FRIENDS OF EDDIE COYLE.


    Post a Comment

    This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?


    www vincekeenan.com


    Site designed by Rosemarie Keenan
    Movie stills from The Prelinger Archives