Movie Review: Open Water (2003)

C'mon sharks... let's do this!

Open Water (2003)

Starring: Blanchard Ryan, Daniel Travis, Saul Stein

Directed by: Chris Kentis

I’m not sure why I wanted to see this movie. I’m not really into scary movies, and I do find sharks scary. Well, scary and fascinating. I guess I figured that this movie was going to be both of those things as well, a more heady thriller with a unique presentation.

Sadly, instead of seeing a thrilling man versus nature tale featuring two unfortunate souls left out in the ocean amongst sharks, what I ended up seeing was a tedious exercise of two unfortunate souls who spend most of the movie bobbing up and down in the ocean wondering when they’ll get rescued. Every once and while, they do encounter threatening sharks and jellyfish, but for the most part, they just float. And bicker. And sleep. And *yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaawwwwn*, oh sorry… where was I?

Open Water is an extremely low budget ($130,000) movie based on the true story of two scuba divers (played by Blanchard Ryan and Daniel Travis) who are accidently left out in the middle of the ocean by their diving tour, forced to deal with the elements and the sealife that surrounds them. The movie makes a concerted effort to maintain realism throughout the movie, with a more realistic portrayal of sharks, eliminating some of the more menacing elements created for the animal by pop culture, while still portraying them as dangerous carnivores. The movie used real sharks in the production of the movie, having them interact with the two leads (the sharks were well fed to keep them from, you know, eating Ryan and Travis).

All of which makes Open Water an admirable film, but none of it makes it an entertaining film. As far as the “based on true events” thing goes, the movie has creative license to portray things since history doesn’t really know all of the events that happened. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of creativity taken by the movie. Sure, it feels realistic, but you know what? Realism? Not that entertaining. I’m not even a standard horror film aficionado, so I didn’t need gory shark fights for the whole movie for it to hold my attention. I just needed SOMETHING to happen more often than not; unfortunately, more often than not, nothing did.

I’d give the movie credit for building tension, but truthfully, tension was naturally present in the situation, with the movie having little to do with its creation. Put people in the ocean, show off a dorsal fin every now and then, and viewers will be tense. Even if most of the movie is two people floating around, waiting for Godot. I will say that very late in the movie, as day turned to night, director Chris Kentis did create one truly unique and truly terrifying scene, with Blanchard Ryan struggling to stay afloat while surrounded by predators, with the only light in the scene provided by the occasional lightning strike. It’s a powerful scene that shows more by showing less that probably jumps the rating for this movie up a bit by itself.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t save the film. I was prepared for a lot of things when watching this movie. I was prepared for it to look low budget (which it does, although, surprisingly, the movie looks a lot better when they get out to sea. You’d think shooting on water would’ve been the more difficult portion). I was prepared for repetitive scenery (check). I wasn’t expecting brilliant acting (and did not get any). I was prepared to be tense throughout (not so much, but sometimes). I wasn’t prepared to be so thoroughly bored. Ultimately, it’s a movie to be impressed by for what it accomplished more than it’s a movie to be entertained by for what it is. Which I’d say makes it a movie worth skipping altogether.


Related Reviews:
Finding Nemo (2003)
Grizzly Man (2005)
Into the Blue (2005)

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