“Open Water” DVD, Blu-ray Movie Review

10/09/2010 Posted by Admin

“Open Water”

DVD, Blu-ray Movie Review

Written and directed by Chris Kentis, 79 minutes, rated R.

By Christopher Smith

In “Open Water,” the bold thriller from writer-director Chris Kentis, a handsome, high-powered couple leave their hectic lives in the city for what promises to be a relaxing vacation in the Caribbean, one free of cell phones, the pressure of the daily grind, the monotony of habit.

For them, the sea is an escape from the concrete world that surrounds them—they welcome the open water and, to hear them tell it, they have paid plenty to play in it.

So be it. After a brief interlude that suggests Daniel (Daniel Travis) and Susan (Blanchard Ryan) aren’t quite as happy as they should be together, they decide to board a tour boat, scuba dive with the 18 others onboard, and hope to reconnect in the deep reaches of the sea.

They reconnect, all right. When the tour boat operators mistakenly leave them stranded in the heart of the ocean with no land in sight, Daniel and Susan must find strength and solace in each other while gradually coming to realize some difficult truths about themselves, their relationship and especially their perilous situation.

What becomes clear is that all the control they felt they once had in their lives is and always has been an illusion. They have none, which is initially unfathomable to them. Now essentially fish food, they bob helplessly in the middle of nowhere while scores of sharks circle and bump into them, some just curious enough to lunge out and bite. When they do, the blood, clouding the water with its appealing scent, will be enough to rattle most movie-goers’ nerves.

The tension Kentis mines from this lean, deceptively simple premise is formidable, sometimes unbearable, always admirable. This is particularly true since in the water with these actors are over 50 real sharks—not mechanical ones, a la Spielberg. The film’s ultra-low, $130,000 budget didn’t allow for it.

It also didn’t allow for consistently clear audio (that’s a quibble) or for the actors to be protected by a cage. That’s really them in the water with these sharks, barracudas and stinging jellyfish, which gives the movie an immediacy and an urgency that can be excruciatingly palpable.

Shot entirely on video and based loosely on true events, the film mounts a sustained hum of psychological suspense. It achieves this by keeping the camera mostly on the skin of the ever-darkening water, thus allowing us to feast on Daniel and Susan’s fear, anger, disbelief, rage and exhaustion as the day stretches into night while only occasionally dipping below the surface to reveal the looming feeding frenzy gathering at their feet.

“Open Water” works on many levels, chief among them as a stark examination of isolation, worry, terror and the dread that can accompany the unknown. It’s about hopelessness and loss, staring death in the face and realizing that this time out, you might not win. It’s ending will ignite debate among those trained by the Hollywood machine, but it’s brave and it’s perfect.

In its new release on Blu-ray disc, where it appears with "Open Water 2," it's also not to be missed.

Grade: A-

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