Open Water (2003) / Thriller-Drama

MPAA Rated: R for language, sexuality and some nudity
Running Time: 79 min.

Cast: Blanchard Ryan, Daniel Travis, Saul Stein, Estelle Lau, Michael E. Williamson, Cristina Zenarro, John Charles
Director: Chris Kentis

Screenplay: Chris Kentis



Open Water is an attempt at a realistic thriller, which some have compared to The Blair Witch Project, but I have to disagree with this comparison.  Blair Witch tried to push forward a notion of realism to the fictional story, but Open Water is a knowing drama, although based on a true story.  There is a less expensive, camcorder look to the film that gives the feeling of authenticity, but that's where the similarities end.  Still, the terror and despair of the situation sure does feel like its real, and while I don't really feel that this is really the kind of film I'd want to see filmmakers make more of, there is a riveting aspect to the drama that keeps you hooked to see what happens all the way up and through the final credits.

The story starts off with the happy couple, Susan and Daniel, on vacation in the Bahamas for some R&R.  They decide to do some diving off the coast, where human error sees their boat leaving them stuck out in the ocean with no land in sight.  The despair and helplessness of the situation slowly sinks in, while sharks, jellyfish, and dehydration threaten to make the experience a shorter one than they'd like at any moment. 

The replay value might not be very high, but even as a one-time viewing, I'd claim it was a worthwhile experience.  What really sells the film most, other than the shaky camera work, are the performances by the two leads, Ryan and Travis, who give very realistic reactions of fright, anguish and terror.  Although it never pretends to be anything but a dramatization, eventually it does feel like you're really out there with the couple, and as the predictable clichés fail to happen, you wonder just how they are ever going to get out of their predicament.

Credit writer-director Kentis for having the vision to craft a wholly visceral experience that engages with suspense of growing intensity.  It's not great art, or even much of a story, but there's still an indelible impression that is left long after it's over.  Harrowing.

© 2004 Vince Leo