In search of much needed relaxation, Susan and Daniel take a tropical island vacation. While scuba diving miles off the coast, the tour guide miscounts leaving them abandoned in the middle of the ocean. As the hours pass, the couple realizes they are not alone as a shark’s fin breaks the surface water. Over the next 24 hours, the couple must fight to stay afloat and alive, surrounded by miles of ocean.
Open Water 8.0
When I first watched ‘Open Water’, many years ago, I had no idea what to expect. I had been aware of it due to some online marketing, but had heard nothing about it whatsoever, whether it be good or bad. But I watched it, given that I was compulsively gobbling up everything that the library had on offer.
I never expected a low-budget film of this sort, based on a true story and with such a turn of events. I suppose that I thought it might be the usual Hollywood thriller, the kind that comes a dime a dozen, something intense and over-dramatized that all wraps up nicely, tidy, with a beautiful bow on top.
‘Open Water’ is no such movie.
There isn’t much I can say about it without ruining the experience, so I’ll focus on some of the strengths and weaknesses that I perceived this time around. Perhaps this… ahem… “insight” might help gauge whether or not this is the type of survival story worth checking out. Or not.
-it appeared and felt real, as though one were watching some documentary footage of the couple’s holiday, edited down due to time constraints.
-the acting was naturalistic, if at times imperfect. Even some (but not all!) of the secondary cast were pretty good – notably the boat captain, who seemed to almost improvise his lines; it didn’t feel like a reading at all.
-the script managed to make the most out of two people stuck in the water. There’s not much one can do with a setting like that one, but the filmmakers managed to make it interesting enough.
-the film’s length. Given the setting, a shorter runtime was totally appropriate to tell this story.
-the sound effects. If there was a vivid recollection that I had from my first viewing, it was how the room seemed to be filled with water, throwing us right into the action with our two protagonists.
-there is no context given. It’s based on a true story, but which one? Do we know who these people are, when it took place, and so forth? It would have been nice to have either a prologue or an epilogue to set it up.
-some moments are never resolved on screen; they’re forgotten completely from one moment to the next. For instance, at one point the couple sees a boat coming in their direction, but the next moment the boat is gone and they’re just floating around as though it had never been there. Presumably, they weren’t seen and the boat bypassed them. But we don’t really know.
-there appeared to be some issues with the chronology. For instance there was a point between 4pm and 7pm where a whole bunch of stuff happened, but it couldn’t possibly have added up to three hours. It should have been twice that. At least.
-either the film was recorded on a terrible digital camera or the transfer to DVD was atrocious. Either way, what could have been a sumptuous open seas adventure was instead a distorted, noisy picture.
This time around, given that I knew the outcome of the story, I didn’t feel the tension that felt the first time around. But I remember vividly being on edge the whole way through, wondering what would come next and what would happen to the couple. Still, despite losing that aspect of the film, I quite enjoyed it this time too.
Despite its remarkable box office success, ‘Open Water’ rates fairly low on the imdb. I don’t actually understand why. I found it to be a terrific example of low-budget filmmaking success under difficult conditions and it offers up a convincing and gripping portrayal of a worst case scenario vacation. I most definitely recommend it and will no doubt watch again someday.