Open Water

Open Water

Open Water comes from a stupid human mistake that strands two people alone in the open, shark-infested ocean

Open Water

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There are basically two type of horror found in film. First, there are the unbelievable, homicidal creatures that cannot be killed, situations far beyond the possibilities of nature.

Then there is the more subtle form, terror that comes from the dark fact that it could happen. Open Water is one of the best films ever to fall into the later category. The dread you feel is not from a Freddy or a Jason, it comes from a stupid human mistake that strands two people alone in the open, shark-infested ocean. A young couple, Susan (Blanchard Ryan) and Daniel (Daniel Travis) led very hectic lives; they live with the usual devices that define our modern world, cell phones, fax machines and SUVs. They both have extremely demanding jobs that are starting to take a toll on their personal lives. They decide that the need a well deserved break and go off to the islands for a vacation. Once there they do the usual tourist things including signing up for a scuba dive. All this is normal enough, people do it every day, right? Due to a simple, stupid human error, the boat leaves Susan and Daniel behind, surfacing to find they are alone in the middle of the ocean. At first, they are just angry, upset that the boat would leave without them. Soon though, a jellyfish stings them and they see those ominous dorsal fins sticking out of water all around them.

This film is a kinder, gentler Jaws for a new millennium. There is amazingly little of what you would expect in here, no real action sequences, only a little blood, the story and the situation is what carries Open Water so well. There is something very primal, visceral that is at work here. First, there is the isolation. Hitchcock realized this with his famous scene in North by Northwest where Carey Grant is alone in a field, no where to hide as the plan grows larger on the horizon. We can all identify with the plight of Susan and Daniel, everything they ever accomplished in their lives is all but worthless now. The audience gets little glimpses of the sharks before the characters are even aware of them. A grey shape moving just below the surface of the water, a shadow just beneath the waves, all letting us know that this couple is in for a bad time. Terror on this level works better than the more overt movie devices. It taps into something that could possibly happen, after all, Open Water was based on true events. I sat there mesmerized by Open Water, the way it just drew me in. I had to see what would happen next. Most of the time the couple are talking, a normal occurrence usually but, here they are desperately trying to hold it together.

Open Water is basically a two person vehicle that doesn’t need a lot of supporting characters to tell the story. Blanchard Ryan is the typical modern woman that is actually just an old fashion girl at heart. She wants to be in control at work but personally, she likes the idea of being cared for by her husband. When these dire circumstances force her to be the protector and decision-maker, she tries to summon her strength as best she can. Daniel Travis has perfect chemistry with Ryan. The two are apparently real life friends so their interaction often comes from a familiarity that you just can’t fake. They play off each other like so many couples we all know. There they are, in the middle of the ocean with sharks swimming around their legs and they argue about whose fault is it. It is a human and touching moment, almost humorous in how familiar the argument is. We have all been there, having a fight that serves absolutely no purpose. According to what Ryan has said about the filming, she was cold and afraid, this was almost cinema verite.

Directed and written by Chris Kentis, produced by his wife Laura Lau Open Water is a family affair. Kenits and Lau are not yet big names in Hollywood, Open Water is their second film, but they will certainly become major creative forces. We have all heard that ‘less is more’. Open Water proves this idiom more than almost any film I can remember. Many directors have tried minimalism but Open Water is a case where it would have been a disaster to go in any other direction. Open Water cost only $130,000 to make and Lion’s Gate showed incredible insight for snapping it up for a mere $2.5 million. The artistry shown by Kentis was fantastic. It takes a lot of talent to make so much out of so little, Kentis doesn’t have much more than two heads bobbing up and down in the water. The cinematography runs the gamut from beautiful to stark. You get the feeling of being something so small in a vast ocean, adding to the ever growing horror. This is reinforced by the choice of Digital Video for the Open Water project. There is the look of a vacation video that makes it all seem more realistic.

Lion’s Gate did Open Water up right! The anamorphic 1.85:1 video recreated each scene as the director intended. Form the beautiful, rich colors of the sunset to the bleak slate blues of the endless ocean the video is true to form. The audio is available in both Dolby EX and DTS ES. Both soundtracks provide a full sound field. The tiniest details are audible. There are two commentary tracks on the disc. The first is between the two leads, Blanchard Ryan and Daniel Travis. This was funny as they remember the arduous task of filming Open Water on weekends and holidays while holding other acting gigs. Ryan was really afraid in many scenes even though they had chain mail hidden under their wetsuits. The Second commentary features Kentis and Lau as they go over the detail problems that had to be overcome. The featurettes include one on the process of selling an independent film to a major studio, the other on how they got the sharks included in Open Water. There where no special effects here, just a cameraman, two actors and a lot of fish with big teeth. Open Water is one of the best to come around in a long time.

Movie Review of Open Water by Doug MacLean of

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