A married couple bickers while trying not to get eaten by sharks in the terrifying-yet-somewhat-Blair-Witch-reminiscent Open Water.
Now, just by mentioning Blair Witch I’ve already got some people heading for the theater exit. Many people felt quite cheated by the movie—perhaps the most memorable part of it for me was the crowd’s reaction to seeing the first frame of the closing credits. Never have I heard reaction so violent to the end of a movie.
For my part, I remember the Blair Witch as fun, though gimmicky. A smart little indie-film idea (for marketing, for production) that just happened to have a movie attached to it. It was different enough to be interesting and interesting enough that I didn’t necessarily feel cheated out of my $7.50.
My reaction to the one hour and 19 minutes of treading water and blurry sharks in Open Water is fairly similar. And for the most part, I mean that as a compliment.
Susan (Blanchard Ryan) and Daniel (Daniel Travis) are a somewhat tense couple vacationing in some tropical paradise. We see them deal with a few stresses, both professional and personal (they make out a bit in bed until Susan says that she’s just not in the mood). With this only somewhat concealed mutual frustration pretty thick in the air, the pair head out to sea on a diving expedition. It’s a day trip. The boat goes out, lets off the divers for a little less than an hour, picks everyone up and returns to the mainland.
On this trip, however, the crew double counts a few passengers and, before Susan and Daniel surface, the boat takes off. Susan and Daniel at first believe they have drifted, then they believe the boat will return, then, slowly, the realization sets in that they are stuck, nothing but ocean on all sides.
Naturally, this does not go over well with the upper-middle-class couple. They fight and blame—Daniel didn’t want to come to the island; Susan wanted to go skiing. They obsess over their first signs of physical distress. They play six degrees of separation to pass the time (Katharine Hepburn and Nick Nolte, I believe). They tell each other how much they love each other. And then, hey, did you see that? Was that a fin? Are those sharks? I think something just bit me…
Open Water is, more than anything, about watching two more or less together people fall apart. They both start crying and, despite the fighting, they soon find themselves clinging to and comforting each other. This process is occasionally more tedious than suspenseful but the sheer it’s-all-the-things-you-can’t-see-that-will-kill-you-ness of their situation gives the movie its edge.
Perhaps even better, Open Water is short. A few minutes more and we’d be rooting for the sharks.
2004 HippoPress LLC | Manchester, NH