Open Water: Special Edition
Lionsgate Home Entertainment // R // $29.99 // December 28, 2004
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted December 30, 2004
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The Movie:

A digital video picture that does not meet the hype that accompanied it, "Open Water" has a great idea going for it, but the acting really takes away from what could have otherwise been a tense little film. The feature, a low-budget effort that many have compared to "The Blair Witch Project", focuses on married couple Daniel (Daniel Travis) and Susan (Blanchard Ryan), whose relationship, as the film opens, has gone sour. The two attempt to spend some time together by booking a vacation, although even then, the closeness really isn't there.

The couple has booked a diving session, however, and maybe that will do some good. Or maybe not. The two go underwater with almost everyone else, but they come back up to find that, due to an error, the boat is nowhere to be seen. They wonder if they have just wandered off-course, and if the boat's just somewhere nearby. After a while (and a pretty decent amount of bickering), they realize that there's no one coming back for them.

Yet, they remain surprisingly calm in a situation where that's just not very believable. Occasionally, the couple even bickers. The first half of the picture doesn't offer the kind of tension one would expect from the situation, as the couple flounders about in the water. The sometimes irritating characters aren't particularly easy to root for, and the film really doesn't capture the terror of being left behind in the water as strongly as it should have. Early challenges include seasickness and jellyfish, but the picture finally gets into gear in its last quarter. The picture finally becomes scary once nightfall arrives, as that's when the real panic sets in. Unfortunately, I didn't find the performances convincing enough until this point, which already took me out of the movie to a pretty sizable degree.

So, late in the picture, after the couple has already deteriorated pretty considerably, the sharks really begin to set in (the two leads were literally dropped into the water with a certain kind of shark.) The film does gain some chills around this point, but it's an issue of too little, too late. Speaking of too little, despite the fact that "Open Water" does boast a good idea, there's really not enough here to entirely sustain the film, even for its pretty brief 80-minute length. The digital-video cinematography certainly isn't great, but the low-budget filmmakers certainly weren't using the latest and greatest in digital cameras.

"Open Water" certainly has some decent moments and a couple of scares (especially towards the end), but the film can't build/sustain tension enough. The acting isn't great, either: the two weren't believable in the opening half (the early vacation scenes are particularly weak, and an unsuccessful way to introduce the characters), which hurt the picture as whole. Overall, something that most may find a decent watch once as a rental.


VIDEO: "Open Water" is presented here in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Shot on relatively low-grade digital video, "Open Water" is not a slick looking picture, nor should anyone expect it to be going in. Sharpness and detail are merely okay, as the picture appeared fairly crisp and well-defined, if certainly not crystal clear. Some edge enhancement and pixelation are visible at times, although both issues are brief and not distracting. Not much of a color scheme present - they're in the ocean - but what colors do show up here come across well.

SOUND: Surprisingly, "Open Water" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1-EX and DTS 6.1-ES. The indie film has a minimal soundtrack - there's some ambience and sound effects here-and-there, but mostly, this is a dialogue-driven affair. Surrounds aren't put into play very much. Dialogue remained fairly clear. Both soundtracks seemed almost entirely equal - either one will deliver the intended soundtrack just fine.

EXTRAS: Two commentaries are the main bonus features: one offers actress Blanchard Ryan and co-star Daniel Travis, the other offering director Chris Kentis and producer Laura Lau. Both tracks are pretty enjoyable, as they provide a good overview of how the low-budget feature accomplished the production. There's good insights to be found here, some fun stories and more about working on a fairly minor budget. Also included are a pair of brief featurettes, some bonus footage, seven deleted scenes and the film's trailer.

Final Thoughts: "Open Water" has a good idea, but it doesn't approach it well enough - I didn't care for the acting or the dialogue, and the picture seemed a bit padded, even at 81 minutes. There's certainly some good moments here, especially late in the picture, but not enough to recommend it as anything but a rental. Lion's Gate presents the film fairly well, with audio/video quality that's fine (considering the budget and format) and a few solid supplements.

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