Open Water

January 28, 2012 8 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

“Open Water” was a movie made on an extremely small budget ($130,000) by a man and his wife doing shots on vacation time and weekends. This is the new Hollywood. While there are still dozens of movies made that cost over $100 million to make, some of the more realistic and surprisingly better movies are the ones that are harder to find. “Open Water” is that type of movie. While comparisons are likely to be drawn to “Jaws” (which I will admit is a much better movie) – this one has its share of thrills and chills, too. Based on a true story of two Australian divers that were accidentally left in the water, “Open Water” tells the tale of a man and his wife stuck floating in the middle of the ocean. Though this movie shares a common theme with “Jaws”, it’s like comparing apples and oranges. “Jaws” played on the basic, primal emotions while “Open Water” shows just how quickly lives can change by a series of unfortunate events. What’s even more impressive is that via the Special Features menu, the actors and director (Chris Kentis) were really out there with the sharks while the filming was happening. They were relying on a Hollywood “Shark Wrangler” to keep the sharks on cue while the film was rolling.

The plot, as essentially already mentioned, is simple. Susan (Blanchard Ryan) and her husband, Daniel (Daniel Travis) come from the world of SUV’s and cell phones. They’re both workaholics and have forced themselves to take this vacation with what little free time they have. They’re happily married, though it’s obvious that the business world consumes most of their passions and not each other. When Daniel attempts to have sex with his wife, she’s “not in the mood”. They’re certified scuba divers and are part of a group charter that takes them out to frolic amongst the fish, eels and sharks. When an accident in counting occurs (the boat left with 20 divers and leaves with 18), Daniel and Susan find themselves – literally – floating in the middle of the ocean. They convince themselves that they’ll be rescued soon, but when it becomes more and more obvious that they’re really left behind all they can do is float and wait. This, to me, is the most intriguing element of the movie. The human mind tells you that the logical thing will happen (they’ll be rescued because this sort of thing doesn’t happen to “normal” people). But the mind can also play tricks on you and when the sharks start to gather around Susan and Daniel – reality sets in.

“Open Water” is a short movie, much like “The Blair Witch Project” and hence proves that movies don’t need to be of any length to contain the substance that makes them good. The ending is ambiguous, much like (again) “The Blair Witch Project”, allowing the viewer to come to their own conclusion. The appeal of the movie is that we feel like we’re spying on something that really happened, well it did really happen. The dialogue is normal and the full range of human emotions is explored in the short 80 minutes. This is one of those movies that you have to shake off and if you weren’t scared of the water after seeing “Jaws”, this will certainly reinforce that tagline. “Open Water” is thrilling and tense and certainly worth a look. When it comes down to choosing between a ski vacation and a scuba trip, though – that answer should be obvious.

Video: How does it look?

It’s hard to really nail down a definitive “video” score for movies like this as it was shot on a DV camcorder. While the images are clean and clear, they tend to have that “amateurish” or “home video” look to them. That said, the image is anamorphic and I had no problem with the way the image was represented on screen. I noticed only a few times that there was some artifacting (in the dingy water), but aside from that I was impressed. Again, comparing this to the “typical” DVD’s isn’t really on the same scale. Suffice it to say, image quality is not a problem.

Audio: How does it sound?

In somewhat of a surprise, the movie contains a DTS ES 6.1 track and a Dolby Digital EX track. I feel that this technology was a bit wasted here as there are only a few instances in which the sound really took control. There were some spots, like the bubbles out of the scuba tanks were shown, in which the surrounds kicked in. I also really noticed a dynamic change when the helicopter fired up as well. There’s no real soundtrack to speak of, just a song played over the opening and closing credits. Dialogue is very clear and natural. I don’t really know which track sounded better, but either one will provide a very good-sounding track.

Supplements: What are the extras?

“Open Water” comes with just enough supplements to tide the viewer over. First off, there are two feature-length audio commentaries. The first is with actors Blanchard Ryan and Daniel Travis. Ryan and Travis talk of the shoot and of shooting with sharks, etc. They seem to have had a good time, but suffice it say that most of their reactions were real and not scripted. I can’t say as I blame them, floating in the water with dozens of hungry sharks circling me. The other commentary has Director/Editor/Writer Chris Kentis and Producer Laura Lau (his wife) talking about how they made the film, how it was shot and most importantly – the budget. Both tracks are good and with the movie being as short as it is, I’d recommend listening to both. There are three featurettes, the first of which talks of marketing and independent movie. Hint: thick skin and don’t give up. Next is a behind the scenes look at the making of the movie with interviews with the cast and crew. Lastly, we get some bonus footage of Chris Kentis as he dives in and shoots the movie complete with sharks around him. Seven deleted scenes are shown in non-anamorphic widescreen including an alternate opening. The original theatrical trailer is also included.

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