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Open Water /

Rated: R

Starring: Blanchard Ryan, Daniel Travis, Saul Stein, Estelle Lau, Jon-Damon Charles

Directed by: Chris Kentis

Produced by: Laura Lau
Written by:
Chris Kentis
Distributor:
Lions Gate Films

 

Blanchard Ryan and Daniel Travis in Lions Gate's Open Water
Swimming with live sharks in Lions Gate's Open Water
Daniel Travis and Blanchard Ryan in Lions Gate's Open Water

     Open Water is not a pretty picture, to say the least. Shot entirely on digital video, the clarity of the film is murky, kind of like the gigantic ocean the two main characters float amongst for the majority of the running length, itself. And if the graininess of the images isnít enough, thereís always the chaotic story left to do a number on your senses. Viewers who do not like intensive screaming and discomfort should not venture into multiplexes to see this indie-at-heart. But, like many of its fellow low-budget productions, Open Water proves to be a worthy study ofÖsomething. And Iím not exactly sure what that something is. Perhaps relationships? Maybe nerves? Death? Disparity? Anguish? But, I do know that it effectively beat the shit out of me, and thatís all that matters.

     Now, I, of course, do not really look at absorption of terror as a positive thing. In fact, Open Water really wasnít scary for me, per se. The true-to-life concept, in which a vacationing, scuba-diving couple are accidentally left to fend for themselves in shark-infested waters by their boat-ride back to the distant shore, may be horrifying. But, going into the movie having heard the basic premise, my skin wasnít crawling, watching it. However, I was shocked and uncomfortable, the only two emotions Open Water requires of its viewers to succeed. All writer/director/co-editor Chris Kentis wants to do is make us feel and suffer with the defenseless duo of focus. And thatís exactly what he does. Just knowing that this goal has been fulfilled, and I was thinking at the same time, satisfied me. This is brutality with intelligence, one thing that is right up my alley, if hardly anyone elseís.

     There are parts of the movie that people will love to hate, when first viewing them. All of these occur in the opening act, before Susan (Blanchard Ryan) and Daniel (Daniel Travis) jump into their own saline-packed tragedy. It screams of the kind of wannabe sophisticated, young-couple, ďIím so hot and heavy but too busy to just let loose and sexed up,Ē stupidly artificial, travelogue-style that the new-wave of motion pictures seem to be embracing, these days. I was rolling my eyes at these ďintimateĒ moments, originally, but now realize that theyíre only fitting. Susan and Daniel need to be this kind of stereotypical, striving characters for their relationship to be highlighted, as they are stranded. One fight between them, in particular, which drives the whole conclusion and gives Open Waterís finish the powerful punch it has, needs this backing. The first twenty-five minutes may not be interesting to watch, and they may also actually be every bit as dreadful as I first thought them to be, but any logical moviegoer will be able to accept them, because of the superlatively gut-wrenching ending that they set up.

     I may not have completely enjoyed experiencing Open Water, but it contains all of the necessary traits that any good movie does. If it isnít entertaining, engaging, and jarring, then I donít know what is. As one who would like to think of their self as truly devoted to film, Iíve ideally chosen to believe that all picturesí positives, if plentiful enough, can overshadow its negatives. Iíll be damned if that rule doesnít apply to Open Water. August is just as bad as January and February when it comes to cinema; the more artistically inclined sect of theatre-patrons are very lucky to have this motion picture as an alternative to throwaway crap like Little Black Book and The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement. Even if flawed, we can all look at Open Water as a good teller of bad fortune.

-Danny, Bucket Reviews (8.25.2004)


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