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HTF REVIEW: Open Water



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#1 of 63 Michael Elliott

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Posted December 24 2004 - 06:24 PM

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Open Water


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Studio: Lions Gate
Year: 2003
Rated: R
Film Length: 79 minutes
Aspect Ratio: Anamorphic Widescreen (1.85:1)
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 EX, DTS 6.1, DD Surround
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Retail Price: $26.98




Susan (Blanchard Ryan) and Daniel (Daniel Travis) are a busy couple who live for their work, cell phones and their nice cars. Their frantic work schedule has left both of them drained so they decide to take a break and get away on a long needed vacation. Early on their trip the two decide to go scuba diving but when the two come up they are shocked to see that the boat they came in on has left them. The couple calmly float in the water thinking the boat will be back at any second but these seconds soon turn to minutes and then hours. As time pass the two soon begin to realize that their chance of survival is slipping especially when a group of sharks draw near.

Open Water, like the characters in the film, left me alone, thinking to myself for a couple hours because I wasn’t quite sure what to think of the movie. I honestly can’t remember having to think so much about a movie when it came to understanding if I liked the movie or hated it. After I was done watching the film my mind was pretty much blank and I didn’t know what to write here so I had to sit in the dark and really think about what I had just seen. What did I come up with? Is Open Water a movie I’m going to recommend people see? I reckon so but that’s not really much of a recommendation, is it?

This is a very quiet film that really isn’t about much and not much really happens throughout its 76-minute runtime. Two people are stranded at sea, they float, talk and prepare for the worst fate while trying to hang onto any type of hope they might have. I guess afterwards I was most disappointed by the fact that the movie really didn’t scare me very much but perhaps it wasn’t really meant to. I guess I could say this film wasn’t trying for any emotions but instead it was simply telling a story and we knew what was going to happen in the end so we just had to sit back and wait for that ending to come.

When I said I didn’t know what to think of the film that’s probably because, like a roller coaster for example, waiting in line and the anticipation is one hell of an experience and that buildup can in no way match up to actually getting on the ride itself. That’s somewhat how I felt at the end of this movie. Going through the film was quite exciting and the actual story was so good that in the end, the ride was a lot more than the actual payoff and in some ways I felt like I had wasted my time but it was fun doing so.

What I enjoyed most was the actual conversations between the couple as they wait to be rescued. A lot of screenwriters would have had some very poetic messages to pass along but that never happens here. The two talk what any normal person would in their situation. They fight about whose fault this is and they talk about varying topics including a little movie game. The two hit all sorts of emotions ranging from hatred towards those who left them to actually realizing how much they love one another. The way the screenplay has these emotions come as their chances of living become slim is very realistic and helps the film along.

Another very good aspect comes from the way the film was shot. Open Water was shot digital and this here really makes the film seem all the more true and gives it a raw edge that would have been lost on 35mm. The added benefit of having the actors in real water with real sharks also adds a great deal to the atmosphere, which at all times is very thick. Not for a second do we believe the two actors are in a heated pool but instead we know exactly where they are and we can feel the cold water on us as well. As for the performances, I thought they were good enough for the film but I wouldn’t call either performance great.

One problem I did have with the film is its very short running time, which is something I normally praise. Earlier in the year I praised Highwaymen for having a short time because the film told everything it needed to in that amount of time and had the director added on space then it would have ruined the movie. For some reason, even at 79-minutes, there appears to be a lot of stuff just added on so that the director could get a longer runtime. There’s a pointless (also enjoyable) nude shot, which was perhaps added so the film would have a better shot at selling. There’s a few party scenes, which are pointless and another scene where the guy gets out of bed to kill a fly. These hear really don’t add anything and should have been cut for more time in the water. The stuff in the water is what we needed more of and without this, the short runtime really takes away more than it gains.

As you can tell, I really don’t know how I feel about Open Water, the actual movie. Technically everything is very good but on an emotional level it really didn’t hit home with me. I wasn’t really scared, I didn’t feel bad for these two people and in the end I really didn’t have much going on in my brain. The movie is a pretty fun ride but in the end I’m curious how many people will feel cheated or letdown because something bigger didn’t happen. I certainly didn’t want some huge payoff as I think the film ended fine but I do wish something more could have been done while the two were in the water lost.


VIDEO---The film is shown widescreen (1.85:1) and is enhanced for 16x9 TVs. Unfortunately I didn’t see this in theaters so I’m just going to have to judge this by how I think it should look. The film was shot on digital and then transferred over to film so that there is going to lessen the possible picture quality but of all the digital films I’ve seen, this transfer here is clearly the best. To be fair, the majority of the digital films I’ve seen have had budgets of $5,000 and this one here is a bit higher but I thought the transfer here was very well considering how it was filmed. I don’t know how it looked in theaters but to my eye the transfer does the film justice.

I guess the best news is that there are no transfer problems here. There aren’t any scratches or speckles thankfully. Edge enhancement was also never spotted and I went back and looked quite closely but didn’t notice it while watching the film or when I went back to search for it. This here is extremely good considering certain studios would have tried to make the film look better than it really should. With that out of the way, the transfer is exactly what you’d expect of a film of this type. Some might think the low grain and slick look means a bad transfer but this is how the film is supposed to look. Since I didn’t see this thing in the theater there’s no way for me to make a correct guess but from how I’ve heard others describe the film’s look in theater, it seems this DVD might present the movie even better.

NOTE: The layer change appears to happen at the 1:05:40 mark. When it happened my player froze up and I had to turn the power off and restart the movie. I went over this three times and it happened twice. I then tried the disc on a different player and it didn't freeze.

AUDIO---We get a boring Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround track as well as a Dolby Digital 5.1 EX track and a DTS 6.1 track. Leave the 2.0 track alone because the other two are among the best I’ve heard all year and considering the budget of this film the sound quality is quite amazing and puts most $100 million dollar films to shame.

I’ll save the comparison for last but both tracks are quite remarkable and only a few minor differences were detected by myself. Dialogue is a keep part of the film naturally and this here sounds very good. The dialogue is crisp, loud and easy to here at all time, which is to be expected out of any new movie. Seriously, I really can’t remember any current film where the dialogue didn’t sound great. The real bonus to both tracks is in the Surrounds, which make this a reference quality disc. From the open shot of the tides rolling in on land, the Surrounds really draw you into the film unlike any other. The tides are constantly being heard and felt thanks to this track and they are constantly moving from the left to right. The sound is so incredibly realistic that if you get seasick in real life then the sound here might actually make you sick to your stomach. The underwater sequences also sound incredible and again, the biggest thrill is that it seems you are actually there in the water. The term “Surrounds” really gets its meaning with this track because the entire time you feel as if you are surrounded by water just like the characters. The rear speakers are also constantly in use, which is quite rare for any DVD. While the two are in the water the rears are constantly splashing around. The music score also sounds very good as do a couple songs that pop up in the film especially an acoustic one early on.

The highlight of the track however is certainly towards the end as the night falls of the two are encountered with a thunderstorm. The thunder sounds so realistic that I actually thought I was hearing a real storm outside. The really cool thing here is that the Surrounds and rears are used to show off the thunder meaning that one strike could come from the left speaker while another from one of the rears. The biggest difference between the Dolby Digital and DTS track is what I’d call range. With the DTS track you really feel a lot more water around you if that makes any sense. The sound of the waves appeared a bit more spread out and a little bit more detail can be heard. However, both tracks are quite remarkable so I doubt anyone will be disappointed with either.

EXTRAS---The disc includes two audio commentary tracks, which can be selected under the “Setup” menu. The first track is with director Chris Kentis and his producer/wife Laura Lau. The two are constantly talking but sadly too much time is spent with the two congratulating one another or talking about how wonderful a certain shot is or whatnot. The good news is that the two are talking throughout so there’s no time for any dead space and when they aren’t slapping one another on the back, the track gives way for some interesting thoughts. The director goes into a lot of detail about the troubled production, which they said was fun to make but they were rushed for time. They also talk about an alternate opening sequence as well as a few deleted scenes. The second commentary track features actors Blanchard Ryan and Daniel Travis. This track here isn’t as interesting as I had hoped but if you enjoyed the film enough then you’ll probably want to check this out. The biggest problem is some dead space, which is something I hate on commentary tracks. When the two are talking they’re quite interesting and tell some nice stories about the production. Hearing Ryan discuss her real fear of sharks is quite nice.

We also get a theatrical trailer, which is shown widescreen and enhanced for 16x9 TVs. Up next are seven deleted scenes, which are shown widescreen but not enhanced for 16x9. Earlier in the movie review I said it appeared several scenes were shot to make the running time longer and that seems true especially after seeing what we have here. There is an alternate opening sequence (2:09), which starts the film off on the beach the next morning after the events of the film. This here really isn’t anything special and I think the director made the right choice by going with what’s in the film. The rest of the scenes are all extremely pointless and were thankfully cut from the film because they really don’t add anything except extra time. “Hanging at the Pool” (0:59) is nothing more than a minute of seeing them sit at the pool. “We Really Need a Vacation” (1:38) shows the girl on the phone and the guy not liking it. “Into the Sunset” (1:14) shows the two walking on the beach and talking about a marriage. “Eye Contact” (0:41) shows the two in bed making (guess what) eye contact. “The Morning of the Dive” (2:17) shows the two waking up that morning. “Susan’s Not Responding” (0:27) is the only extra scene from the water and is the most interesting here, although it’s really short.

“The Indie Essentials” runs just over five minutes and takes a look at the making of an independent film and how you should try to market it. This here is very interesting stuff but sadly the running time doesn’t allow for too much detail. They pretty much give you a quick rundown of how to make the film and how to get it seen. This here should have been given more detail but what’s here isn’t bad. They also go into detail on why this film as well as The Blair Witch Project caught people’s attention even with a small budget. “Calm Before the Storm” is a fifteen-minute featurette that takes a behind the scenes look at the making of the film and features interviews with the cast and director. This segment here is somewhat of an extended version about the above feature but this one here is more interesting since a little more detail is given and the cast is included. The discussion ranges from writing the screenplay up to actually filming with real sharks. We get some behind the scenes stuff of the filming with sharks, which is just as interesting as the movie. Talking about how they filmed this and what they were trying to do is worth the price of this DVD alone. “Bonus On Location” runs just over two minutes and is exactly what the title says. We get some more behind the scenes shots like the cast getting into their suits and in the water.

OVERALL---To me the film is worth viewing at least once but you’re either going to love it or hate it. I’m somewhere in the middle but I’m probably going to give it a second viewing to see if it sits in a bit better. Lions Gate has delivered one of their best releases of the year giving this film very high treatment. The “look” of the film is its own subject but I thought the transfer was very good and a lot better than what I expected. Even if you hate the film you might want to pick this up for the incredible DTS and DD tracks, which are certainly reference quality. The extras are also very nice and make this a must have for those who enjoyed the movie.


Release Date: December 28th, 2004

#2 of 63 Lewis Besze

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Posted December 24 2004 - 10:34 PM

I just watched this flick as well.Well, couple of things.
I personally hate this kind and the typical "disaster" movies,because it seems it always bring the worst out of people.This was no exception as the blaiming game started, I just rolled my eyes,please not again!Let me just say I was rooting for the sharks here.
Video:I normally don't comment on this because I still use and old 36 Wega set,and half the problems people bith about don't bother me on this set, but the low resolution came through very obviously,especially at the beginning,not too mention the fast camera movements. Now I know this was intentional,but I whish this new filmakers concentrate on the story and the characters instead of how many different ways they can move shake the camera.I found it distracting.
Thing seemed to improve as the movie progressed however either my eye got used to it or did indeed improved.
Audio:
It seems that many of the HTF reviewers are less "picky" on this then me because "reference quality" or 5 stars are handed down on every other releases here.
I look at the sound in two ways,editing/mixing and sound quality.I agree that the effort for the editing/mixing are rather good in the most part,except when the divers were entering the water,and the camera was looking at them from below.Some of the splashes were out of sync with the picture just ever so slightly, but enough for me to take notice.Don't know if this was intentional or just sloppy editing.
Sound quality was ok for the most part.but it was really bad during the storm scene.I actually could picture the sound guy pounding and shaking a metal sheet to mimic the sound of a thunderclap.It sounded thin and fake to me.70% of the movie was nothing but ocean sound which was rendered rather faithfuly.Dialog was good as well.I can't recall the music of this movie however which is a sign for me that it wasn't anything beyond the typical "sound effect" type that serves each scene,but since nothing sticks out it was probably good,or average.
All in all I wouldn't recommend this DVD for purchase especially a blind one,but as always one should rent it to form an opinion.

#3 of 63 Michael Elliott

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Posted December 25 2004 - 02:40 AM

Lewis, it appears you're bashing the V/A because of how the filmmakers shot this and recorded the sound. This had a budget of $130,000 so they did what they could. Either way, I haven't reviewed a disc in quite some time that featured a better audio mix. This might have been made for $130,000 but by the audio on this disc it appears this was a $100 million dollar movie.

I'm sure others will chime in soon but to me, this was one of the best 5.1/DTS tracks of the year.

#4 of 63 TonyD

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Posted December 25 2004 - 02:46 AM

from the other thread...

i just watched it today, and i thought it was one of the worst looking dvds i have seen yet.

it was blurry, or slimy looking.
i dont know really how to describe it but slimy is good because alot of the image tends to leave a trail of sorts as the images move.

i'm guessing it was supposed to look like this because i didnt see it at the movies.

i didnt have time to look at the sups so i dont know if the style was discussed there.
but i did look at one of the deleted scenes and it looked like it may have been shot using digiTal CAmeras,
as it was very clear almost live looking.

other then that i thought it was a terrific movie.
edge of my seat wondering what would happen to these people.
strangely enough one of the other people who watched it said they thought it was boring/too slow.
sure most of the movie took place in the water with just the 2 people but it was far from boring.

the sound was spectacular.
dts and dolby digital including dts-es and dd-ex.

a thunderstorm near the middle of the movie was some of the best sound i ever heard on a dvd.

it was a short movie hitting
the credits at about 1hr 16 min.
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#5 of 63 Simon Massey

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Posted December 25 2004 - 03:36 AM

I saw this film yesterday and really enjoyed it. The nighttime sequence was especially well done and incredibly tense as I had no idea how it was going to play out having not read much about the film before going to see it.

#6 of 63 Lewis Besze

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Posted December 25 2004 - 08:31 AM

Quote:
Lewis, it appears you're bashing the V/A because of how the filmmakers shot this and recorded the sound. This had a budget of $130,000 so they did what they could. Either way, I haven't reviewed a disc in quite some time that featured a better audio mix. This might have been made for $130,000 but by the audio on this disc it appears this was a $100 million dollar movie. I'm sure others will chime in soon but to me, this was one of the best 5.1/DTS tracks of the year.
I'm not bashing anything I'm simply don't agree with your opinion,since when is that bashing?Like I said it wasn't the mix I had problem with but the quality of the folies[which weren't many],and that thunderstorm sound.Yes surround activity was enveloping and served the picture well but there is more to "reference sound" then that, at least to me.The fact that it was a low budget film is noted and they indeed did the best they could,no question there,but the sound quality reminded me of that fact time to time.I would also agree that there are big budget films that had lesser quality mix/sound but that won't change my mind of what I thought of this DVD.

#7 of 63 Michael Elliott

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Posted December 25 2004 - 08:45 AM

Quote:
I'm not bashing anything I'm simply don't agree with your opinion,since when is that bashing?


Apologizes then but your post came off to me as if you were saying the track wasn't any good because of the limited budget behind the film.

I've watched so many lower budget films this year that this track really took me by surprise. The thunderstorm was a highlight because each of the speakers had their own little "storm" going on in them. All the surrounds and rears constantly had the waves in them, which got me into the atmosphere of being surrounded by water. I normally don't talk too much about an audio mix but this is one time where the track gave me a lot to talk about. Posted Image

I'm pretty much reviewing the audio track for home theaters and not really judging how various sound effects were recorded. I'm sure a bigger budget might have led to something better but I'm only rating the actual mix brought to the DVD.

#8 of 63 Lewis Besze

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Posted December 25 2004 - 12:15 PM

Quote:
I'm pretty much reviewing the audio track for home theaters and not really judging how various sound effects were recorded
Well I don't review it but I sure judge it. Posted Image
Merry Christmas!

#9 of 63 Michael Elliott

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Posted December 25 2004 - 01:40 PM

Well Lewis I'm sure others will chime in once the disc is released.

I was shocked anyone would enjoy SURVIVING CHRISTMAS so I guess I shouldn't be shocked that someone would be disappointed in this track. BTW, did you find much of a difference in the two tracks?

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You too sir. Posted Image

#10 of 63 Jason Hughes

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Posted December 25 2004 - 04:31 PM

I not i
Government in action = Government inaction

#11 of 63 Lewis Besze

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Posted December 25 2004 - 06:34 PM

Quote:
BTW, did you find much of a difference in the two tracks?
I didn't compare as it was a rental,all my comments were regarding the DTS-ES track BTW.
Quote:
Well Lewis I'm sure others will chime in once the disc is released.
I'm sure most will find it more along the lines of your opinion,but that won't bother me.Posted Image

#12 of 63 Randy_M

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Posted December 26 2004 - 05:08 AM

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I’m curious how many people will feel cheated or letdown because something bigger didn’t happen


Since this is a true story, I don't see how it could have ended any differently
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#13 of 63 TonyD

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Posted December 26 2004 - 06:17 AM

wow, some weird posts in this thread.
anyway.
it was based on a true story.
the real people were featured on 20/20 or a similiar show recently and it said that these people did this for insurance or some sort.
they faked their deaths.

cheated by what?
the ending.

really, how else could it have ended to make it more real, or more scary?

not all stories have to have big hollywood endings to be good.
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#14 of 63 Karl F

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Posted December 26 2004 - 11:48 PM

I know this isn't the Movie Discussion thread, but I gotta make a quick nitpick with something Michael said (in his excellent and thoughtful review!):

"There’s a few party scenes, which are pointless and another scene where the guy gets out of bed to kill a fly. These hear really don’t add anything and should have been cut for more time in the water."

I think the fly-killing scene is there because
it helps establish that the couple didn't get enough sleep, which helps explain them both falling asleep and drifting apart. I know when the fly scene arrived, I had that same "uh oh" feeling that I get when something's keeping me from sleeping and I've got stuff to do the next day.


--K

#15 of 63 Michael Elliott

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Posted December 27 2004 - 03:14 AM

I personally enjoyed the ending very much. However, I think a lot of people are going to buy into the false marketing, which made this film appear to be JAWS or some action film. Those expecting that will probably question the ending and even if you do enjoy the ending, it ends rather suddenly and out of left field.

I don't have the exact times but I really think they needed to add more suspense/drama in the water. I think they leave at the 20 minute mark and it takes another 15 or so for them to actually get lost. That leaves us with about 30 minutes of them in the water. I might not have minded the opening stuff had more time been spent in the water but from the deleted scenes it appears not much else was shot in the water.

I normally love short movies because they often fill their time very well. I really didn't think this used the time to the best. Again, my opinions might change on a second viewing or perhaps all the hype got the best of me. I enjoyed the film a lot but I wish there had been more to it.

KARL---The director actually says pretty much the same thing you did about the fly scene. The nude scene was supposed to show us that they were comfortable together. I guess my feelings on it goes back to the running time. The director got 40 minutes around the water and needed filler time to round out the movie.

Quote:
people did this for insurance or some sort.

Playing with sharks is no way to get insurance. Posted Image

#16 of 63 WillG

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Posted December 27 2004 - 03:59 AM

I went in thinking there was going to be more action from the marketing, so I guess I expected more. But, I enjoyed it just the same. I think it is great that the film turned out to be very tension driven instead of being driven by visceral action. I do wish they could have done
some more nighttime scenes
but I suspect the way the film was shot probably precluded more of that.

I went to see it with my younger brother and, of course, he hated it. But I think it was pretty fresh concept if you are not epecting balls to the wall action.

Quote:
This was no exception as the blaiming game started, I just rolled my eyes,please not again!Let me just say I was rooting for the sharks here.

I actually thought that bit was pretty genuine. I'm sure that many people who have been in long term relationships can attest to that. Especially if your relationship was going through some minor strain like theirs was.
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#17 of 63 CraigL

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Posted December 28 2004 - 09:18 AM

Have to say I'm happy the Best Buy Bonus disc came in it's own tray this time. Good job!

Cept that other regions are getting a 30 min documentary and we're not!

#18 of 63 WillG

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Posted December 28 2004 - 10:09 AM

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Cept that other regions are getting a 30 min documentary and we're not!


You have got to be kidding me. I don't suppose the Best Buy bonus disc contains that doc. does it?

Jesus, what country are we (most of us) living in here, Russia? This is the United F'ing States of America. The US getting the shaft on DVD releases over other countries is unacceptable. (nothing personal against other countries)
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#19 of 63 Michael Elliott

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Posted December 28 2004 - 10:30 AM

This film is owned by different studios across the world so there's a very good chance that other regions will be getting different things.

Does that R2 disc have the commentaries, deleted scenes and featurettes that are on the R1? Or, is that R2 documentary the same as what's on the R1? The "featurette" runs 15 minutes but with the added extras (under different names), the total running time would be around 30 minutes.

#20 of 63 JonZ

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Posted December 29 2004 - 01:02 AM

It would have been nice to see some really good behind the scenes/making of materials since they did shoot with real sharks. A missed oportunity IMHO.

Im undecided abotu this one.(I love sharks but have a salt water phobia)I want to see it, but Im also trying to keep purchases down, and only get stuff I have to have. I dont rent so if I dont buy it, Ill have to wait until it hits request.