Starring: Blanchard Ryan, Daniel Travis, Saul Stein
Director: Chris Kentis
Running Time: 79 mins
Open Water is an American film about a couple who go on a scuba diving excursion far from the shore, and are left alone in the middle of shark-infested waters.
Though it came long before the now endless stream of terrible shark movies, Open Water is a really poor thriller, lacking any real sense of tension or genuine danger throughout. With amateurish cinematography, uninteresting characters and less-than-stellar performances, it’s doomed from the start as it tries to grab you with a striking atmosphere of isolation.
With the exception of a rather overlong opening act before we even get on the boat to the open ocean, the vast majority of this movie takes place in the middle of the ocean, focusing only on the two people stuck in the shark-infested waters.
That sort of film is really quite hard to get right, and though modern classics like All Is Lost and Life Of Pi are able to conjure up gripping, often transcendent drama in the same setting, Open Water relies way too heavily on the danger that lurks beneath its two leads, without enough focus on them as individuals.
Now, credit where credit is due, the film doesn’t immediately jump into blood-filled shark action once the pair are left alone by their tour boat. It at least stays away from a purely ridiculous story and instead aims to create some tension, by making everything seem normal before it goes wrong.
So, while they float there waiting for rescue, the couple play games, talk about their lives and get into a row or two about their relationship. The problem with that, however, is that rather than providing the enthralling drama of other isolated ocean movies, it’s actually really quite boring, and takes away any tension that the film is trying to build.
The characters are never particularly interesting, and the film’s half-hearted attempts to capture your imagination about their relationship throughout always fall flat. Meanwhile, the two lead performances from Blanchard Ryan and Michael Travis are far from eye-catching, and do little to hold your attention through the movie – a big job given that they’re basically the only people on screen throughout.
Meanwhile, the film’s cinematography is also both distracting and ineffective. As the story tries to build tension, we find ourselves sitting in the water just waiting for something to happen. Through that period, the film is shot on very shaky hand cams that make it look like an amateurish holiday video, rather than an actual movie.
Of course, filming in the middle of the ocean with a limited budget is far from easy, but Open Water does very little to further its sense of isolation, danger and suspense through its cinematography, and ultimately proves more of a distraction than any kind of asset.
As a result, there really isn’t much about Open Water that works well. Its premise may sound exciting at first, but with consistently failed attempts to build tension, a poor screenplay, underwhelming performances and simply bad camerawork, the film is a very dull watch that lacks the excitement you might hope for at first. So, that’s why I’m giving it a 5.7 overall.