Studio: Lions Gate
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