Open Water (2003)
(Release Date: October 26, 2003 [Hamptons International Film Festival])
(Release Date: January 16, 2004 [Sundance Film Festival])
(Theatrical Release Date: August 6, 2004)


A no-budget Indie Gem with great Buildup, but no payoff!

J.C. Mašek III
The World's Greatest Critic!

It would be easy as cake and pie to simply dismiss this movie as an over-hyped let down, and let's face it, compared to a great many of even the lesser studio films this isn't all it's cracked up to be in the areas where it counts. However, if one looks at Open Water fairly, it's actually quite an achievement. This film was done with almost no money using digital cameras researched and bought on the internet with no crew to speak of, a husband/ wife team to shoot it and unknown actors. Sure, there's not much payoff for the build-up of tension, and one can't help but feel a little let down in the end. However, how many "home movies" are there that get picked up by Lion's Gate Films and are debuted in over 2000 theatres? You might not love this film, but you'll probably respect it!

After a drab opening, vacationing couple Daniel (Daniel Travis) and Susan (the beautiful and briefly naked Blanchard Ryan) take a commercial Scuba Diving tour and are accidentally abandoned at sea with nothing between them and the horrors of the deep save a wet suit and their looks. From that point the mediocre acting from the first few scenes evolves into a tense and realistic portrayal of this couple as they range from irritation to anger to horror to desperation to resignation. While the majority of this movie is simply an account of these two innocent people floating in shark-infested waters and trying like mad to stay alive, writer/ director Chris Kentis and his wife, producer Laura Lau keep the tension both varied and strong as the plight of the pair gets more and more unbearable.

The whole thing unfortunately collapses under its own weight and results in a realistic, yet unsatisfying final act. However, while you might wonder why you spent all this time watching a middle of the road film about the blue desert and its prey, giving it a bit of thought might make you glad you did. It's not Glitz and Glam that makes a movie, of course. That said... Open Water is not great... no... but it's not terrible either.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention that budget constraints prevented any major special effects here, and those times you see sharks, you're really seeing sharks. When you see those two actors with the sharks, those two actors are really with those sharks! No cage, no barriers. This film looks and feels real because, in no small part, this film is the real deal! Luckily it's not the real real deal, because although this film purports to be "Inspired by True events", this is a fictionalized account of what the true life stranded divers might go through. The characters are named after the actors (Blanchard Ryan's first name is Susan), and you'll find no direct corollary to this true event in reality. Sure Scuba divers have been stranded in real life, but this particular story is fiction!

Open Water might actually suffer as a victim of its own successes. Director Chris Kentis (thus far known only for 1997's Grind) had faith in his digital movie as a small film to play as many Festivals as possible, and with any luck, get picked up for a small and brief release. However, Lion's Gate Films watched this "Blue Desert" and saw Green, launching it in wide, wide release and accompanying it with a marketing campaign that suggested that it was the best thing since sliced mackerel!

It isn't.

However, imagine if it had gone the way Kentis and Lau imagined and this was discovered as a minor Gem in some Dollar Movie House. People would have Saluted the achievement. Oh, they might have still felt let down and disappointed, but they'd have appreciated this film that made it with so little.

I appreciate it, and Salute it... but let's not make a Jaws out of a Napoleon Dynamite... Open Water is simply not great. It is good, though, and a noteworthy little gem with a great big unexpected audience.

My salute remains for Blanchard Ryan, amigos, and I hope to see her again in something soon (no, not my shower, I'm married). It's great to see a big release for a little film that tries hard with no budget to speak of, and taken for all with all, Open Water is worth Two and a Half Stars out of Five. I like it, and while it's no Jaws or even Jaws 2, it is a top notch achievement for the little film makers that could! Hey, it's better than The Blair Witch Project! So until I edit thousands of cuts from the third Chapter of the Open Water DVD into my own personal Blanchard Ryan tribute film, I'll see you in the next reel... and hopefully that reel will be chapter three from the Open Water DVD! HUZZAH!

If you find yourself Swimming with Sharks...
Click here for some safe, warm, dry reviews... actually... really dry!

Open Water (2003) reviewed by J.C. Mašek III who is solely responsible for his views and his refusal to EVER take a commercial Scuba Diving Tour!!!
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Eat THIS, Blanchard!

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