Our good friend Big Bald Dave just sent in a review he wrote of Open Water for his lovely Imagine ‘Dat website. Does he like it? You bet. Read on for his thoughts …
“Independent movies are perceived quite a bit differently than they used to be both by critics and by consumers. With a string of successful very low budget films having hit mainstream theatres in the last few years, people just expect more and are by extension willing to forgive less of filmmakers hampered by budget, etc. I predict Open Water, while still doing solid box office, will be hampered by its strengths more than by its weaknesses. This is a much more intelligent film than audiences, who because of marketing are paying to be scared, will want to see.
It‚Äôs also a deceptively simple film and therein lays its power. Instead of catapulting us from one event to another we are left, like the characters, alone, adrift if you will. The terror emerges out of the sense of isolation and though sharks and other aquatic conventions play a part in this, there is a sense of hopeless dread, a sucking whirlpool. To be alone in the ocean is to be utterly alone even if you‚Äôre with someone you love. It calls the very nature of love into question.
Susan and Daniel are a couple in dire need of a vacation from their workaholic lifestyle. A last minute decision, motivated by the needs of Susan‚Äôs job, leads them to choose a vacation that includes a diving jaunt. All goes well until they surface only to discover the boat is not there. Soon the pair is adrift, in waters they know to be frequented by sharks.
The movie does a lot to set the characters up for us, a wise move since we spend most of Open Water with the couple as they bob up and down through the waves. As mentioned above the couple does encounter various aquatic bogies but they struggle mainly with each other and their own growing sense of terror in their situation. Arguments arise about whose dumb idea the vacation was in the first place, about money, work and finally the couple‚Äôs relationship itself. To call Open Water a downer is a bit of an understatement. For those concerned with spoilers, believe me I‚Äôve revealed less than you think and thinking is something you want to do while watching this film.
Made over a process of three years Open Water is utterly independent. The director and producer – who also, like the couple in the film, happen to be married – put up the miniscule budget of $120,000 dollars. Initially there wasn‚Äôt even a score for the film so while comparisons to Jaws are tempting they are also somewhat disingenuous. Jaws, which is a studio masterpiece no doubt, features in the end one lone man against an inhuman enemy, an enemy he vanquishes in an indifferent environment. Without the shark there is no reason to suspect that Brody wouldn‚Äôt simply float home. In Open Water the ocean itself becomes the enemy, the indifference of the vast expanse is set against the human bodies need for water, food, shelter. The ocean seems to mock even as it ignores becoming an environment that is at once familiar and alien.
For such a cheaply made film Open Water is tightly written, well photographed and contains solid performances from its leads. There is a bit of blurring that probably has to do with blowing the film up from it‚Äôs source but overall the realism that‚Äôs achieved, especially in the shark sequences is unbearable. For a film that spends most of its time with two characters adrift in an ocean there is surprisingly little sense of the camera‚Äôs presence.
I really can‚Äôt recommend Open Water more highly. Suspenseful, thought provoking, you should go see Open Water for more than just the sharks.”
Big Bald Dave