John Stockwell, the director behind such ocean-centric movies as Blue Crush and Into The Deep directs this very recent return to the sea in which the lovely Halle Berry stars as a foxy marine biologist/diving expert named Kate Mathieson. Her specialty? Sharks, or more specifically, swimming with sharks - nature's deadliest killing machines! She's out to change the public's perception of these misunderstood creatures of the deep, however, but when she helps out a film crew in need of some shark footage, soon has to swallow those words when one of the crew gets eaten by one of those poor, misunderstood killing machines.
Understandably shook up by what she's just witnessed, Kate decides that it's time for a career change and quickly puts her shark studying ways behind her in favor of a new gig as a tour guide, a job that frequently finds her out to see with various tourists. Soon enough, though, Kate gets an unusual offer from her ex-husband, Jeff (Olivier Martinez). He shows up to talk Kate into teaching the son of a thrill seeking random rich guy named Brady (Ralph Brown) to get over his fear of everything... by swimming with sharks, no cages allowed. He dangles a pretty sizeable chunk of change at Kate to coerce her into accepting this bizarre offer and before you know it a giant storm has come into the area and all sorts of lead and supporting characters are stuck in shark infested waters during the most dangerous time of the year to be stuck in shark infested waters. Maybe Kate should have thought this over a little more before agreeing to get on a boat with a load of strangers who don't know what they're doing and take them out into the most active stretch of shark infested waters around, but... she didn't.
What could and should have been a passably entertaining shark attack movie is bogged down in a big, big way by the pseudo romantic subplot involving Kate and Jeff. Their marriage didn't work and they need to talk about it. A lot. While there are sharks all over the place. This angle of the movie, and it makes up a big part of its running time, really just brings the whole storyline to a crawl. That's not to say that you can't work a romance angle into an adventure film, as it's done all the time and generally with a lot more success than we see here, but this time around it's crammed into the plot like a square through a circular hole - it doesn't fit very well.
The movie does a few things well that should be mentioned. The camera work is excellent throughout the film, both above the water and below. A few of the shark attack scenes are well edited and nicely framed to heighten the tension and the movie also benefits from very clever use of sound during these same sequences. The location shooting is frequently gorgeous, and on a visual level the film is an absolute success - making it all the more of a shame that the story is as rickety as it is. Not helping matters much is Berry's performance. She looks great here (and is surprisingly never appearing worn down by the weather or by the ocean where she spends so much of her time!), there's no doubt about that, but her character frequently comes off as distanced and bored by the whole ordeal, rarely as engaged in the proceedings as you would expect her to be. This ties into the forced romantic subplot angle and winds up hurting that aspect of the movie even more than it already has been. Martinez is decent enough as her former flame, but there isn't enough chemistry between the two of them to get audiences involved enough in their drama to care.
The shark footage is good though, and the movie is saved from hitting rock bottom by that footage. The science behind the actuality of what we see in the movie is certainly questionable enough but this is escapism, entertainment - not a documentary so we can let that slide. Had there been some stronger casting choices made and had there been more effort put into making the love story/drama work alongside the more adventurous aspect of the plot, Dark Tide probably would have been a lot of fun. As such, it's not that much fun at all - it's just got a lot of cool shark scenes with very little to hold them together.
Dark Tide arrives on Blu-ray in a very nice looking AVC encoded 2.35.1 widescreen 1080p high definition transfer from Lionsgate. Detail is quite sharp here and color reproduction looks great. Skin tones are nice and natural looking and black levels are strong throughout the transfer. The movie makes great use of its locations and the scenery definitely shines here, with plenty of lush looking locales really impressing. The underwater shots understandably don't look as sharp as the rest of the movie, they're a bit soft and hazy in spots, but you'll definitely notice an improvement in these scenes and pretty much all of the other ones over what standard definition can offer.
The only audio option on the disc is an English language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track, there are no dubbed options provided though subtitles are available in English SDH, French and Spanish. Like the video portion, Lionsgate has done good work here. Directional effects are frequent throughout the movie and the lossless track handles these very well. Scenes are made more effective through some clever surround use while most of the dialogue comes from the front of the mix. The score is mixed in nicely and spread out well while levels stay properly balanced from start to finish. This isn't as aggressive or impressive as other mixes but it's definitely a very solid, strong presentation, particularly during the big final scene.
Aside from a menu and chapter stops, the only extras on the disc is a trailer for the feature, though it is at least presented in high definition.
While it may look and sound great on Blu-ray, the fact of the matter is that Dark Tide just isn't a very good movie. It has a few decent scenes that save it from hitting the complete bottom of the barrel but just barely. Berry looks great but doesn't really offer much more here than eye candy, while the rest of the cast fail to impress and the film fails to ignite the way you hope it will, instead content to get mired with uninspired dialogue scenes that don't wind up contributing much to the movie. Hardcore shark movie fans or those completely enamored with the film's leading lady may want to rent it, everyone else can safely skip this one.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.