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August 31, 2004

Review: Open Water

The trailers deceive. Open Water isn’t about a group of screaming teenagers armed with video cameras who go swimming in search of shark with a big jaw and get lost. It’s about a marriage, amidst all that. Minus the teenagers.

It’s a straightforward story simply told. Susan and Daniel are the two main characters. They’re young, attractive people who lead busy lives. Naturally, they’re quickly vacationing on an exotic isle. They go scuba diving. They enjoy themselves. Then, their boat leaves and leaves them stranded. The rest of the film is spent with the two leads as they cope with their situation (which Daniel says isn’t as rare as most people think). While attempts are made by the duo to save themselves, they can’t do much, and their interaction soon becomes the focus of the film.

Unfortunately, Open Water doesn’t build a relationship strong enough to sustain itself. The characters are too thin (She’s a workaholic. He watches a lot of television). And, in a film that runs less than 80 minutes, too much time is wasted on filler. For example, what’s the point of a gratuitous nude scene near the beginning?

However, Open Water isn’t totally without merit. There are some interesting ideas presented in the film. Consider a scene in which Susan and Daniel, floating in the ocean, can see their salvation in the form of two boats. But they can’t decide which one to swim to. Not long after, an airplane buzzes by. It’s a great image of a world brimming with means of communication, in which people are still disconnected.

Even a sequence that explains how Susan and Daniel were left behind is interesting. In short, it involves an observational error and an over reliance on math. Had the boat operator been more personal in his approach to his customers, and not viewed them as units, the whole fiasco could have been avoided. It’s significant that he finally realizes his error only when he finds the pair’s belongings on board his ship, and looks at their photographs.

On the visual side, Open Water relies on a rough, realistic look. And it succeeds. An atmosphere is created of expansive claustrophobia. For Susan and Daniel, the ocean is big place and a tiny, confined space at the same time.

Another good decision is the restricted use of underwater photography. The two main characters are up to their necks in shark infested, jellyfish teeming water and they don’t know what’s going on below the surface. The audience is forced to fear that unknown as well.

The cinematography helps create tension. And the only breaks, which come jarringly, are brief scenes of life back on land that serve to show the passing of time as well as to juxtapose the reality of Susan and Daniel’s vacation with the vacation they thought they were getting. Vacation could easily stand for marriage.

Had the filmmakers been able to supplement these ideas and their style with better characters, Open Water would have been both intriguing and satisfying. As it is, the film is only intriguing. The film’s conclusion, a nicely subtle final scene, should have produced a strong emotional response. It doesn’t. Instead, it serves to underline the weaknesses of the entire film.

August 30, 2004

The Duck Mafia Has Landed.

We've settled around the pond.

But ain't regular birds, us. I mean, we can talk and type and all that Blues. But, besides those details, we kinda got a little taste for something most birds don't. Namely Films. And everythin' associated wit 'em. Screenwriting. Film History. Film Theory. Directing. Cinematography. Editing. And, of course, watching the damn things.

We like to gather together, all us ducks, and talk 'bout what we seen. Argue. Yell. Learn. (That's what we got this pond for, see.) We're an opninionated bunch. Sometimes loud. Sometimes wrong. But always honest.

Ain't exactly the communal types either, but we respect the odd Pigeon or Osprey stopping by for a few bites of soggy, whole wheat bread and some talk. As long as they has an opinion to share and ain't afraid to use their beaks, that is. Hell, flap yer wings too. But don't be chirpin' for the sake of making noise. 'Cause we don't take kindly to 'dat. And you don't wanna have us not takin' kindly.

Now, I'd love to stay and chat some more, but we just got a shipment of seed in from outta town. And it needs to get distributed. Ain't gonna do it itself.

Cheers,
Quack Corleone