Open Water


Reviewed by: David Haviland

Open Water
"A thrilling example of the power of digital video."

Some films are easy to summarise and Open Water is one of them. As you will hear many times over the next few months, Open Water is "Jaws meets The Blair Witch Project." These precedents don't flatter writer/director Chris Kentis, as Open Water is every bit as chilling and suspenseful as this comparison suggests.

The film is based on a true story, albeit loosely, as it follows a successful young couple preparing for a much needed holiday. As they pack, tension hangs in the air. Susan's phone never stops ringing and Daniel tries to persuade her not to pack a laptop. It's clear that a Caribbean holiday is just the kind of seclusion they need.

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They arrive at the resort and in the morning join a diving party which takes them 18 miles out into the ocean. The pair dive together, but when they resurface the boat has disappeared, after a mix-up with the headcount. They find themselves stranded in shark-infested waters, waiting for the boat to return.

Open Water is shot on handheld cameras and is a thrilling example of the power of digital video. The graininess of the format, combined with the wealth of natural lighting, give the film a stylish realism that makes the characters' plight terrifyingly plausible. Kentis uses no special effects, so almost everything we see is real in some sense. The actors spent 120 hours in the water with up to 50 sharks at a time.

Despite the Jaws comparisons, sharks are really only a small part of the terror of this situation. Susan (Blanchard Ryan) and Daniel (Daniel Travis) have no control over where the currents take them and are almost invisible in the swell. The water isn't cold enough to kill them, but they can be sure that unless the boat comes back, they will die here. And all they can do is wait, as the sharks circle beneath them.

Open Water is a genuinely scary film, packed with suspense and psychological terror. The best shockers give us something new to fear.

One thing's for certain; diving instructors will pay extra close attention to headcounts from now on.

Reviewed on: 10 Sep 2004
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A young couple are left stranded in shark-infested waters.
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Director: Chris Kentis

Writer: Chris Kentis

Starring: Blanchard Ryan, Daniel Travis, Saul Stein, Estelle Lau, Michael E Williamson, Cristina Zenarro, John Charles

Year: 2003

Runtime: 80 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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