‘Open Water’ is a lukewarm swim

By Gus Bode

Starring:Blanchard Ryan, Daniel Travis, Saul Stein

Running time:1 hour, 19 minutes

2 1/2 Gus heads

Advertisement

Some films are just begging to be liked, and in the end, we’re begging to like them.

That’s why it hurts so much when they just don’t deliver the goods.

“Open Water” is a prime example of this cinematic depression. People would really, really like to love this film, but instead, jeers arose from the audience as the final credits began to roll. People heatedly shouted they wanted their money back.

Everyone was ticked off.

Suddenly, the people in line for “Princess Diaries 2” seemed like the smart ones.

Maybe they were. Maybe they weren’t. That’s a tough one to call, and it may be almost as tough as trying to decipher just what to think of “Open Water” once the lights have come up again.

Throwing the elements of “Jaws” and “The Blair Witch Project” into one terrifying stew, “Open Water” has a creepy kind of perfection going for it, a minimalist charm that never pounces on its audience but instead wraps them in a subtle blanket. These are the good parts of the whole package.

Advertisement

Unfortunately, something is just a little off about the rest of it.

Contrary to the rave reviews that have come from critics and the Sundance Film Festival, “Open Water” is not startling or horrifying or even down-right scary; it’s more concerned with building a solid wall of tension, which would be fine if the characters were frankly worth giving a damn about.

“Open Water” is a rewarding watch if only because of its night-and-day relationship with everything else playing in theaters these days, and director Chris Kentis, making his sophomore film here, has an understated voice that may blossom into something truly remarkable.

However, his movie ends up playing like a well-done film school project; you feel good for having seen it, but you’re probably not going to see it again. It’s just not as memorable as you want it to be.

Shot on digital video with a shoestring budget of $300,000, “Open Water” certainly makes good use of its meager resources. An urban couple (played by relative unknowns Blanchard Ryan and Daniel Travis) takes a break from their hectic lives to go on a scuba diving trip, and everything is going swimmingly until they come up from underwater and find their boat has left them stranded.

At first, they wait for the boat to come back.

They get stung by jellyfish.

The sharks begin circling.

You see where this is going.

And admittedly, when “Open Water” is firing on all thrusters, it gives off a silent mood of creepiness. Problem is, the characters were so sparsely fleshed out in the beginning that it’s difficult to remember their names. A pointless scene of nudity early on is apparently supposed to substitute for character exposition here, and an excellent scene in the water later on where the couple begins heatedly bickering opens the door to where the entire film should have taken itself.

Instead, it’s content to think that the mere presence of understated sharks is enough to carry the film. It’s almost enough, but it doesn’t quite get the job done.

However, I don’t want to take criticism too far. “Open Water” is a respectable foray into filmmaking, and the slow tension it builds is certainly worth a watch.

But when you came to see something remarkable, something you really wanted to be good, you can’t help but be disappointed. Something is just off about the whole thing. Something very integral. As a result, “Open Water” is just floundering in the ocean, and as much as it’s begging to be good, it’s going to have to settle for what it is.

Advertisement