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It really doesn't surprise me that some people don't like this film. After all to truly enjoy Open Water one must open their mind and think. In this day and age that hardly ever happens anymore. Most filmmakers just decide to blow things up and hope that it's enough to entertain their audiences. Society in general has become numb what with the plots just laid out in front of us never questioning or asking us to use our imaginations. Open Water is a film that asks its viewers to place themselves at the heart of the movie; to feel the desperation, the hopelessness and the absolute terrifying ordeal. And for a change the movie is shot in a way that allows the viewer to feel as if truly there. Is it Jaws? No and its not meant to be. Maybe that's where the confusion lays. Open Water is a suspenseful film, excellent at that. If you're someone who actually enjoys figuring out the movie for yourself instead of being told in the first five minutes this is the film for you. Score: A.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This has to be the angriest line in the entire movie ("We paid to do
this!"), uttered in a furious, hopeless growl by Daniel (Daniel Travis)
as he and Susan (Blanchard Davis) float and drift aimlessly in the calm
waters of the Atlantic after being left behind by their cruise and
slowly yet inexorably lose any hope of being rescued by anyone. Because
it sums up the way reality becomes a surreal nightmare -- young yuppie
couple pay for a vacation getaway in the Caribbean and find themselves
being shark bait, and who really is to blame? Them? The crew's
carelessness for not doing a name count? They could have gone skiing
(no sharks there) and not been stuck in this quandary. What have they
done to deserve this?
There are no answers to these questions, only open sea and the mounting dangers just below the surface. To know that these dangers are there, but not to see them, is just as bad -- even worse -- than to actually see them. Chris Kentis, thankfully using the less is more approach and shooting the film in an anti-conventional form (no artificial lighting, no backdrops, no CGI sharks, no large water tanks substituting for open sea for close-ups, digital video), creates a visceral experience with this short movie that relies on so much since almost an hour is spent in the water. Never does a moment go by feels like filler: the events feel real, the mounting desperation as Susan and Daniel slowly realize just how dire their situation is feels right (even though sometimes the delivery feels too flat -- but this is perfectly fine, since this is how people actually talk instead of talking in speech), and the timing from when the fake shark head which Daniel ironically sticks his head into in the marketplace, from the mention of sharks about 20 minutes in, to the actual, split-second appearance of a shark's fin and tail 30 minutes in is great and its quiet yet horrifying conclusion in many ways, outdoes JAWS. No swelling music, just the vague, grey outline of the animal beneath the surface, and that alone is enough to create moments of incredible dread, especially in the best sequence in the film: its night sequence, where all we see is what they see, darkness and each other once lightning flashes, drowning their screams and implying another shark attack.
However, OPEN WATER is not a movie about fear in itself. It's more about this vast, stomach-turning emptiness of how suddenly meaningless our lives become when put into a (pun intended) fish-out-of-water situation. It's not only knowing that the waters are infested with sharks, but knowing that the end will come.
Susan (Blanchard Ryan) and Daniel (Daniel Travis) have hectic lives.
Even as they're headed out on a much-needed vacation, they're making
last minute business phone calls. They head to a Caribbean island for
sun, fun and their real passion, scuba diving. On their second day they
schedule a spot on a commercial diving trip to a reef, where due to a
head miscount by the tour guide, they end up left behind. How will they
survive in open water?
This is a remarkable film for a number of reasons. It's basically a "super low budget" independent film, made on free weekends by a husband and wife writer/director/producer team with little-known actors and a skeleton crew. It was later picked up by Lion's Gate after a showing at Sundance in 2004, and went on to earn over $30 million on its US theatrical release alone. Of course, it doesn't deserve a high rating for those reasons. There are plenty of super low budget films made with passion that ended up being terrible, and others, such as The Blair Witch Project (1999), which made an exorbitant return, but which, for me at least, didn't work very well.
The triumph of Open Water is that writer/director Chris Kentis constructed a disarmingly simple film that ends up being incredibly effective in its goals--to present an intense, thrilling, suspenseful life or death scenario with horrific implications and subtextual commentary on appreciating and living life to its fullest, even when faced with the power and non-judgmental potential brutality of nature.
You can tell that Open Water is unusual from the first frames. Shot entirely on digital video, Kentis achieves a look that is crisply, almost otherworldly beautiful and colorful and which at the same time conveys a stark, voyeuristic glimpse at a "home movie". This atmosphere helps create an extremely realistic feel, aided by the outstanding performances of Ryan and Travis as well as Kentis' naturalistic direction. For example, while heading out on the boat, he has the cast engaging in small talk, none of which the viewer can quite make out--just as if you were a passenger watching these events unfold.
Once our protagonists are left behind to fend for themselves in the open water, the thoroughgoing realism doesn't stop. In fact, Kentis actually filmed his in the ocean, occasionally surrounded by real, wild sharks, which were only controlled by a shark wrangler (or "shark choreographer" as he calls himself) strategically tossing food into the water to hopefully direct their attention. While trying to survive, mired in their realistic but horrific situation, Susan and Daniel run through a plethora of emotions and conversations, all completely believable.
Kentis occasionally relieves the tension by presenting more abstract images--various shots of water at one point, clouds at another. These are beautifully filmed and edited, and very simply but effectively convey volumes about the unthinking ubiquity and power of nature, juxtaposed with man's place in it, attempting to survive.
Another unusual sequence has our protagonists still struggling as night and a thunderstorm descend. Long swathes of darkness accompanied only by frightening audio are occasionally punctuated by lightning flashes, which show just enough to heighten the sense of impending doom. It's an amazing moment and a pinnacle of horror film-making, completely justified and believable, yet terrifying. Kentis also deserves kudos for the resolution of the film, which is wonderfully poetic and nihilistic at the same time. Even though the running time of the film is slightly on the short side, the pacing and unfolding of events seems perfect; it doesn't feel short at all.
While this is not a film that everyone will appreciate, due to its extreme uniqueness and the uncompromising nature of the script, it is a film that anyone serious about film (and especially horror films) should watch and give a fair chance.
It seems a lot of people were expecting "Jaws" when they rented "Open
Water". This is no monster movie. It's a quietly intense psychological
film, that works amazingly well. The fact that it was literally shot
without a crew makes it nearly a miracle of a movie.
I was pretty impressed by the cast, especially Susan (Blanchard Ryan). It isn't often that two unknown actors can carry a film so well. Their emotions are very real which really adds to the tension.
I'm pretty sure the director (Chris Kentis) will go on to make some good bigger budget movies. He's got a real knack for building suspense. I was also impressed with the organic structure of the narrative. You're not really sure where it's taking you, which only adds more to the horror of what eventually happens. Kentis' dialog writing seems to be the weakest aspect of the movie. Some of the dialog the actors have to (literally) spew is awkward and extraneous, sort of a failed comic relief. In a no-budget movie that's often the case. Hell, that's often the case in big budget movies. Overall the movie is very successful and all involved have received just praise.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The first time I became aware of "Open Water" was driving home one
night in 2003 stuck in the usual traffic jam when i noticed a huge bill
board advertising the movie. "Blair witch meets Jaws !" was the slogan
above an image of two petrified characters in the ocean with a large
shark fin in front of them. Being a big fan of Jaws and having been
impressed by the Blair witch project I decided I would see it when
released. I was further intrigued when i read the premise for the
story. After I finished college i spent some time in, among other
places, Cairns, Australia where I have family. There was a great deal
of talk about the Outer Edge and the peace core workers Tom and Eileen
Lonergan who had disappeared. Armed with all the details I had learnt
from the locals in Cairns two years before Open Water was released,
this became a must see for me.
Unfortunately it was a huge disappointment. The movie omitted most of the interesting elements of the real story. You are presented with two unlikable characters who we are given no background to and very little reason to care about what happens to them. More than half of the screen time is devoted to watching the two of them bob up and down in the Ocean.
I have read many reviews here that state how fantastic this piece of independent cinema is. I'm afraid I disagree. It is a boring, uninteresting and inaccurate piece of movie making. I have done some diving myself and there are many inaccuracies in the Ocean scenes. To name a couple, sharks do not tend to have the courtesy to wait until you are actually dead before they start consuming you and trying to drown yourself in a wet suit is damn near impossible.
This movie would have been so much more interesting if they had incorporated some of the real story into the drama. Did they fake their own deaths? Were their diaries an indication that this was done deliberately? Was the divers message slate with a plea for help genuine or a hoax? Sadly, none of this is included.
The real genius of the production was the marketing team that Lions gate films employed to promote the film. The advertising campaign was vast and guaranteed that public interest would be sufficient to make a profit on their investment.
When the credits rolled and the lights came up the night i saw this movie, I heard one man behind me shout "Is that it?" which drew great laughter from the rest of the audience. That was the most entertaining part of the whole experience.
I found this film terrifying to watch. I've been in a similar
situation, except for the sharks. You can't imagine the feeling of
being alone in the ocean, far from land, not knowing if you'll make it
back to shore. I had drifted out a ways trying to reach a floating log
in the Pacific. My friends were hung over and passed out on the beach.
It was early morning. I finally reached the log not realizing the tide
was going out and I was being pulled further out to sea. Once I
discovered what was happening I jumped back in and started for shore,
quite a ways to go. It took calming down, floating a lot, and continued
paddling to get ashore. When I finally touched bottom, I crawled up to
the beach and collapsed. With the tension, fear of drowning and
exertion of strokes, it totally exhausted me. Also wondering what was
underneath the surface, not seeing it.
I thought this film brought that terror out. It was filmed as though you were right next to the couple. The use of the water level being right where your eyes would be, made it so real. I wondered where the camera was and how did they get that level of eyesight? Chris Kentis wrote and directed this with a keen eye and a good sense of tension mounting. He also brought out excellent performances from two newcomers, Blanchard Ryan and Daniel Travis. I thought the were very convincing in their performances. I found at times that I was no longer watching a movie - that they were really in the danger that existed. I also think it was possibly beyond the call of duty to put the actors through the paces of being in the water so long. Not your usual demands of actors, unless it were a fish tank and fake waves. But this was real and they were in the middle of the ocean.
Hats off to all three involved - Kentis, Ryan and Travis. Chris Kentis also did the camera work as well as editing the film. Good work, Chris. You got me with this.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I recently viewed the movie, "Open Water". I disagree in part with the
comments of "Movie 1021". The only comparison between this movie and
"Jaws" is the ocean. To bring the sharks into the review, likening the
movie in any way with "Jaws" would be like reviewing "Casablanca" as
"just like Open Waters" because the two main characters are a man and a
This movie, "Open Waters" is said to be based upon actual events, much like the movie "Perfect Storm". As with "Perfect Storm", the screen writer could only guess at the interaction between the two main characters during their disastrous ordeal. I found this interaction extremely believable, especially the argumentation sequence which showed the viewer that the writer and director understand human nature to a special degree. The vast majority would respond in kind if placed with a loved one in such a situation. Blame must be established in the frustrated, exhausted mind and finger pointing is imminent even between those most loved.
In "Jaws" the focus was on the shark...which actually leaves its own environment, thrashing onto the boat, the haunt of man, to destroy him with almost human passion and vengeance. In "Open Waters" the two humans found themselves in the habitat of the shark which simply followed its biological norm and fed upon that provided by the ocean.
In my opinion, "Open Waters" is an excellent study of human nature, not the nature of the shark. The writer, it seems to me, was expressing the reaction of human nature to a situation totally foreign to it, while the sharks reacted to the situation exactly as their nature dictated in a situation completely common to it.
I enjoyed this 'study' very much and would recommend the movie to any who ask me.
J. Ira Monroe
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I thought the "meat" of this movie was fair, it was the parts leading
up to it and the ending that were awful. This might have done a lot
better as a much shorter film. Even at only an hour and 20 minutes, it
was about 30 minutes to long.
The character development is *weak*. If you're not going to bother doing some real character development, don't do it at all. For the first 25 minutes, I could have been watching my girlfriend and I go through our daily ups and downs. If I wanted to watch that, I'd just video tape any random couple for a day and have all the footage I needed. The acting was fair at best. The chemistry between these two never worked for me. The bedroom scene was really a mystery to me. Here's our lovely female lead, nude in bed. Boyfriend jumps in, they kiss, she wonders aloud if she's in the mood, they kiss, she decides she's not in the mood but wants to talk. He rolls over and they go to bed. I very much felt the only reason scenes like this were in the movie was to make it long enough to turn into a "feature" picture and put in theaters. Some of the deleted scenes reinforce this point as we're subjected to a scene that shows the alarm going off, the characters laying in bed, struggling to wake up, and then a 30 second shot slowly closing in on the ceiling fan. That's right, 30 seconds of ceiling fan action. Dramatic! I thought the ending was hacky as well, as if the writer had no idea how to end this movie. Techncailly, they didn't, as it was based on a true story and the true persons who experienced this are, of course, dead. Boyfriend has bled out from a shark bite inflicted late the previous day. Girlfriend pushes him away and he is quickly devoured by sharks. The last scene shows girlfriend commit suicide by drowning herself. First off...it's hard to drown yourself without weights. The body is naturally buoyant and it would take a heck of a lot willpower to keep from jerking your head above the water. Drowning hurts. A lot. The vast majority of the population would surface to stop the pain.
Secondly, how do we know this person committed suicide? Why not show the final image of the girlfriend adrift by herself? For me, that would have been a lot more dramatic than seeing her commit suicide in suspect fashion.
Had this movie started as the couple boarded the boat and ended with the camera slowly pulling back from girlfriend, alone in the water, I would have given it 6 stars. Combined with the hackey front "half" of the movie and the cop-out of an ending, I was pretty unsatisfied.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I keep seeing all these comments on here. It really makes me concerned. Have we turned into a world where only movies with glitz, glamour, and explosions are considered good? This movie, although slow, tells the story of 2 people, getting stranded and how they deal with it. It is NOT a true story, but BASED on a true story. (If you look up the couple this movie is based on you will find that their bodies were never found, but they were presumed dead since they were out in the ocean for 3 days and never found. So to answer someone's question/statement from another post.....THEY DON'T KNOW WHAT HAPPENED - they are basing the movie off this story and came up with their own ending.) I think the problem with this movie is, many people saw it as a horror movie. I know I thought that it was in the horror genre from the previews I saw. But it isn't. It's suspense. You get to know the characters, start to like them, and then are thrown into this horrible experience to share with them. An experience I think no one would like to have, but can relate to the way this couple interacted with one another. The most moving scene, I feel, is at the end. When she says good-bye to Daniel and then undoes her life vest, and then the credits come up. I just sat there in silence for a few minutes. It just hits home that life is fragile. It sucks that so many people hated it, but I urge anyone who hasn't seen it to go see it. Nothing fancy, just an interesting story.
This movie was never about character development. This movie is
never about a couple having a fight. This movie is not about
sharks. This movie was never meant to be filmed in a pro way.
This movie is about how your will and your life falls to pieces when
facing something that could be a nightmare and you feel you're
totally awake. This movie is about desperation, about your life
being taken from you with hours to feel how you will not be the
same, because you know it's over for you, but you don't want to
believe it... something we like to call hope.
You may have entered Open Water willing to eat all your popcorn
and coming out of the theater telling jokes and feeling life is here
forever. But this movie is about the opposite.
This is a wonderful film, and I thought Susan was going to be
bit**ing all the time and stuff, but she didn't. The ending was so
damn sad. I left the theater in a quiet fashion. I couldn't say a word
to my girlfriend because I knew she felt for them too.
You don't need character development when you turn on the news
and see millions of unknowns blown to pieces or starving. You
don't need it because you know they are like you. Made of the
same matter, and as fragile as any other animal.
Open Water is a beautiful piece of movie-making, and it's so
human that it's almost unreal.
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