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Open Water

A movie directed by Chris Kentis

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Stay out of the water...again!

  • Mar 1, 2012
***1/2 out of ****

In 1998, an American couple - claiming the names of Tom and Eileen Lonergan - along with a boat filled with people went scuba diving for a good day; the twist to this tragic story is that these two individuals never returned from the trip. Apparently, as a result of an inaccurate, lazy headcount on the group supervisor's account; the boat that they came in on left them behind while they were still submerged underwater. Onlookers of the sad, sad tale have come up with several theories surrounding their disappearance; it could have been suicide, it could have been the sharks that infested the waters that they found themselves stranded in for possibly days on end, or it could have even been a big ol' hoax. All we know, at this point, is that the bodies were never found; although some of the duo's scuba gear washed up on a beach.

Filmmaker Chris Kentis was inspired by this story, and sought to make a realistic shark feature that was free of all Hollywood clich├ęs and all irrationality. In the end, he made "Open Water"; an incredibly tense, realistic drama-thriller that pits man against animal, but without a clear struggle. A few names were changed - the couple now goes by the names of Susan Watkins (Blanchard Ryan) and Daniel Kintner (Daniel Travis) - and so was the location (the story is now set in the Atlantic Ocean instead of the Pacific). There is no typical "character development". A movie like this simply does not need any. Once the boat takes off and we realize that these people are essentially left for dead; we can't help but feel their pain and turmoil.

"Open Water" is all about technique. In a world where most films involving sharks are riddled with CGI renditions of the great sea-dwelling beasts; Kentis uses real, live sharks to evoke a sort of realism, and damn, it works quite well. The problem that these two people face is resonant for a number of reasons: the sharks, the danger, and the camerawork that gives the film its style. "Open Water" was filmed entirely on digital video; which just helps to make it feel even more authentic. The actors filling in the roles of the couple, respectively, also give the film some dramatic weight; there are scenes of emotional intensity that will perhaps one day go down in history as some of the most utterly effective.

The movie is pretty short, running at only mere 79 minutes; and that's all it needs. While that might not seem like a very demanding length for any film, the ways in which Kentis presents the journey from the beginning to the end of the ordeal make it feel so much longer. In case you didn't pick up such a notion from just about every plot synopsis regarding the premise; this is a deep, dark, depressing hole of cinematic sadness and emotional suffering. It's virtually bloodless (most of the time), yet it's made more disturbing than any of those silly "Saw" movies. Whether you go along with it or not - and some people were expecting a Disney movie, so I can understand if one doesn't enjoy it -, it's guaranteed to get right under your skin.

This isn't a movie for everyone. It isn't a movie for a lot of people. Heck, I'm not even sure if it would be right of me to recommend it; for some people might not want to see it at all. But...I'm going to judge it based on how well it works, for what it wants to be or do. "Open Water" wants to be a gritty, believable drama that feels not much unlike a real-time documentary; and that's precisely how I would describe it after sitting through the draining, intense experience. To call it a killer shark movie would be doing one of the best suspense thrillers of the past decade an injustice; one could indeed call it just a "shark movie", and at that, quite possibly one of the greats. Damn, it's been a long time since we got one of those.

My hope is that one of these days; Kentis will come out from under his shell and make yet another movie. I'm also hoping that if he does this, it will be just as good as his first outing. He has successfully taken me on the sort of cinematic journey that is seldom taken; because it's almost as if there are no longer original, daring, or particularly skilled filmmakers. Even on a minimalist style, Kentis is able to achieve more than most Hollywood hacks would have if they had taken a stab at the premise. His execution is flawless; and his spirit, unending. This is the work of a master filmmaker; able to summon fear and tension, seemingly out of thin air. No matter how gruesome or perturbing it gets; one cannot look away. Most of the time, this is a good thing. So get ready to resent the ocean and the fishies alike once again; for "Open Water" might even be able to give "Jaws" a run for its money.

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More Open Water reviews
review by . March 21, 2009
This would be a difficult film to watch on the big screen but it works out fine on the small screen. It is tough to say what I really think without providing spoilers but here goes.     It works on the DVD because the extra features showing how the movie was made and on such a low budget(basically a husband and wife made it in their spare time with two unknown actors) makes the movie a lot better than it is.     The beginning says that the movie is based on …
review by . March 19, 2009
Open Water
    What might have been just another exploitative man vs. nature film, the theme from "Jaws" playing in the background, is, instead, a dire reminder of fate and chance when dealing with unpredictable elements. A young couple, Daniel and Suzanne, exhibit the usual tensions of a relationship the night before a scheduled dive trip from an unnamed island, but are delighted to explore the depths of the ocean with the others on a chartered dive boat. When the dive times out, a busy …
review by . March 11, 2006
posted in Movie Hype
"Open Water" is a low-budget, mildly thrilling shark flick. Sure, it has real shark action in it (except for the biting parts), but there isn't quite enough here in the way of character development to warrant more than three stars. The beginning of the flick introduces us to Susan and Daniel, two of the most annoying young adults you'll ever run into. They constantly bicker, even when they're in the middle of the ocean. I was really gunning for the sharks to take a nip of both of them just to make …
review by . July 17, 2005
posted in Movie Hype
This would be a difficult film to watch on the big screen but it works out fine on the small screen. It is tough to say what I really think without providing spoilers but here goes.    It works on the DVD because the extra features showing how the movie was made and on such a low budget(basically a husband and wife made it in their spare time with two unknown actors) makes the movie a lot better than it is.    The beginning says that the movie is based on …
review by . February 10, 2005
posted in Movie Hype
Obviously low budget, this movie details the events surrounding a couple at a resort island who go on a deep sea diving expedition....and are mistakenly left behind by the tour group. What follows are the events surrounding their attempts to stay alive--in the middle of the ocean with no land in site. There is inky blackness as they float in the dead of night, there are storms, and most frightening of all they have begun to perk the interest of the local sharks--which, as it turns out, are anything …
About the reviewer
Ryan J. Marshall ()
Ranked #3
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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About this movie


Proving that the power of imagination is much more terrifying than what meets the eye, OPEN WATER is Chris Kentis's intensely realistic deep-sea drama, "based on true events." The film's leering digital video camera allows viewers to float like shark-bait, stranded in the middle of the ocean with Susan and Daniel (Blanchard Ryan and Daniel Travis), a bickering married couple who have just been abandoned by their scuba-diving boat in the Caribbean. As the tension escalates between the troubled twosome--who are cold, tired, dehydrated, and more than a little scared--the tragedy of the situation is exacerbated by a series of very unfortunate conditions. While a current sweeps them far from where the boat left them, and deep dark clouds pass menacingly overhead, the sea-life just below the surface is clearly not of the friendly variety. Yes, those are real sharks, folks. Meanwhile, Daniel, who watched Shark Week on television, is no stranger to the perils at hand, and finds himself battling shock. Minutes pa...
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Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama, Horror
Release Date: 2004, August 20, 2004
MPAA Rating: R
DVD Release Date: December 28, 2004
Runtime: 1hr 19min
Studio: Lions Gate Home Entertainment
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