Chris Kentis' "Open Water" is an expertly made suspense thriller based on an actual incident, but on a visceral level it's about as much fun as watching someone pull the wings off a butterfly. In a technically astute feature debut, Kentis must be credited not only for his skill but also his uncompromising stance. But by the end of the film, which is a cautionary tale about nature's indifference to mere humans, Kentis has not really revealed any truths about the workings of fate and human frailty that aren't well known to most adults. It is questionable whether viewers will feel rewarded for the ordeal that is in store for them.
With ease and economy, Kentis establishes that Daniel (Daniel Travis) and Susan (Blanchard Ryan) are an attractive young couple, workaholics perhaps more in need of the vacation they've lined up than they realize. After settling in at an unnamed resort in the Caribbean, they're off on a group excursion to go scuba diving. They stay underwater the full allotted time, between 30 and 40 minutes, only to resurface to discover the boat is nowhere in sight.
That the boat was crowded should have made it all the more incumbent upon the boat's attendant to get an accurate head count before taking off, but when the boat returns he also fails to check whether anyone has left anything behind.
Very swiftly Daniel and Susan drift farther and farther out to sea. They tell themselves that surely someone will notice their absence and that rescue will be on its way. As time passes, fear and anger alternately and logically surface, finally giving way to declarations of mutual love. Time is running out, the waters are shark-infested, they will either be found in time or they will surely die. It's as simple as that.
"Open Water" unflinchingly and with absolute realism and conviction details the couple's worsening ordeal -- the planes and boats that pass too far away to notice them, the details of their deteriorating physical condition. Nothing is left out to drive home the sublime indifference of the universe to their fate. But don't most people already know how indifferent the universe can be without having to sit through the suspenseful but increasingly unpleasant "Open Water"?
MPAA rating: R for language and nudity
Times guidelines: Far too intense for children
A Lions Gate Films presentation. Writer-director-editor Chris Kentis. Producer Laura Lau. Cinematographers Kentis and Lau. Music Graeme Revell. Running time: 1 hour, 29 minutes.
At selected theaters.
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)
By the Numbers
There's something in the water
With moviegoers headed to shark-infested 'Open Water' this weekend and 'Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid' slithering into theaters Aug. 27, it's worth taking a look at how selected aquatically oriented creature features fared at the box office. By no means a comprehensive collection.
*--* Film Domestic gross (Year) (in millions) 'Jaws' ('75) $260.00 'Deep Blue Sea' ('99) $73.60 'Anaconda' ('97) $65.90 'The Abyss' ('89) $54.20 'The Deep' ('77) $47.30 'Sphere' ('98) $37.00 'Lake Placid' ('99) $31.80 'Leviathan' ('89) $15.70 'Orca' ('77) $14.70 'Deep Rising' ('98) $11.20 'Deepstar Six' ('89) $8.10
Sources: Boxofficemojo.com, Nielsen EDI