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"Open Water"

Directed by Chris Kentis.
Written by Chris Kentis.  Based on "true events."  Whatever.
Starring Blanchard Ryan and Daniel Travis.
Release Year:  2004
Review Date:  8/10/04


"Open Water", which I was fairly excited to see a few months ago when I first started seeing the trailers, is the most overrated and therefore the most disappointing film of 2004.  This is made worse by the fact that, like Digital Underground's third album, "Open Water" is so short that if you show up even ten minutes late you are only going to get an hour's worth of running time.

Seriously, get this:  I walked out of my apartment, took the elevator down to my car, drove 15 minutes to the theater, walked from a garage to the theater, got my ticket, sat down, watched the movie, walked out of the theater, drove the 15 minutes home, took the elevator back up to my apartment and bolted the door in just two hours!  I did all of that in two fucking hours, and that INCLUDED watching the movie!  Usually, movies are never released into theaters that are shorter than 80 minutes, so that means that "Open Water" is even shorter than "Passenger 57", and--you guessed it--there is even less going on.

So much less that I am just kind of irritated right now for dropping the cash on this thing.  The film's idea is a very good one--a couple (Blanchard Ryan and Daniel Travis) goes on a dive somewhere south of the border and ends up being left by the boat in open water with no one to rescue them for miles on end.  As an idea, this is quite scary.  Director Chris Kentis gives us a couple of moments when things are very frightening, but for the most part, we are left watching the couple banter as their situation looks more and more grim as the film drags along.

Wow, where do I start?  The film's first ten minutes are spent on land, as we "get to know" the couple; this is left to the poor acting of Ryan and Travis, who are so wooden in this segment that a snooty film critic would probably up and leave the theater all together, it is so bad.  When we get to the water, you should feel as stranded as the couple does, but because you don't give two shits about their well-being, it's hard to warm up to their impending doom.  Also, it seems like for the first few hours they are lost at sea, the twosome don't seem nearly as scared about their dire chances as I would be or regular people should be...instead, they are playing Six Degrees and complaining about whose fault everything is, and on and on.  This brings laughs to your audience, but I realized that this is not breaking the tension so much as grasping for air.  By the time Susan (Ryan) screams "I knew we should have gone skiing!!", does this really play along with the "Based on true events" tagline of the film's authenticity?  Suddenly, it's a whiny comedy, not a serious drama/part-time horror flick?

The decision to stick with the couple for the majority of the running time as they drift further and further from civilization is a good one, it's just too bad that director Kentis couldn't dream up more for these folks to do besides bicker at each other.  I can't say this isn't realistic, it just isn't interesting in a film after the third scene of it beating on my skull.  Then, during a nighttime sequence where the only light comes from lightning overhead (my favorite sequence of the film), we get a couple more shots and then it's over.  Man, "Open Water" ends so fast that if you are sitting in the back row, by the time you stand up, walk down the stairs and make your turn for the exit, the ending has finished, the lights have come up AND the credits have finished rolling, it's over that fast.  I didn't like the ending all that much either; I can't really tell you why without giving something away, so let me know what you thought about it and I'll drop a line back.

Writing this review now, I think the most disappointing thing about "Open Water" is that nothing about it is really that cinematic, you know what I mean?  Nothing about seeing this in a theater adds or subtracts to how you will enjoy it; it's so short and so devoid of the kind of charisma that defines recent indie juggernauts like "The Blair Witch Project" or "Memento" or even this summer's "Napoleon Dynamite" that seeing it anywhere besides your home television is a waste of time.  I'll admit that I have never gone on a deep sea dive before and had anything nearly this bad happen to me in the water (oh, besides almost dying), but I would bet that even the dive community would be disappointing by "Open Water."  This will be a great pick for your Netflix queue when it comes out in a few months; until then, skip this and see something worthwhile instead.

Rating:  Rental


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09