Sunday, October 25, 2015
And that's what is so good about Open Water (2003); it understands this relationship with the ocean and exploits it. Based on a true story (of course, it is, but that's better than the plot of Open Water 2, which is based off an episode of King of the Hill), Open Water is about a couple, Susan (Blanchard Ryan) and Daniel (Daniel Travis), on a vacation in the Caribbean. They go out scuba diving and accidentally get left behind by their tour boat. Left alone in open sea, they must contend with the elements and sharks.
Writer/director Chris Kentis does not load the picture with artificial episodes of action or suspense. If anything, he strips away artifice and convention, making the movie a character study about two people who must confront the inevitable: if they aren't rescued soon, they will die because there is nothing they can do. Yes, there are some hungry sharks, but this isn't Jaws. There are no thrilling scenes of Susan and Daniel heroically fighting the creatures off. Sometimes they see sharks, sometimes the sharks get too close for comfort, sometimes the sharks try to take a bite. They're animals checking weakened, possible prey, not mythical monsters that swallow men whole.
The movie opens by emphasizing their (and by extensions, our) dependency on technology and other people. Kentis shows us shots of their cellphones, they complain about their air conditioner in their hotel room being broken, they go out to eat at a restaurant, and they take a plane and boat ride. As a species, humans are survivors, intelligent enough to control their environment and hunt animals, but individuals humans are weak, slow, and easy pickings without weapons, tools, or other people around.
Open Water is not Jaws. It's not very fun, and it's a bleak, nihilistic movie. It defies traditional dramatic structure and payoffs and avoids movie heroics and thrills. Open Water is not for everyone because it's ultimately an uncomfortable movie to watch, but it is an effective, uncompromising movie.