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Movie Review

Open Water

MPAA Rating: R for language and some nudity
Reviewed by: Willie R. Mangum, Jr.
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Drama, Thriller
1 hr. 19 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
Copyright, Lions Gate Films
Copyright, Lions Gate Films
Copyright, Lions Gate Films
Copyright, Lions Gate Films
Copyright, Lions Gate Films
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Lions Gate Films

Why is NUDITY an issue? Why are humans supposed to wear clothes? Answer

Featuring: Blanchard Ryan, Daniel Travis, Saul Stein, Estelle Lau, Michael Williamson
Director: Chris Kentis
Producer: Laura Lau
Distributor: Lions Gate Films

“Drifting into theaters this summer. Who will save you?”

Here’s what the distributor says about their film: “Based on true events, OPEN WATER follows an American couple, Daniel and Susan, (Daniel Travis and Blanchard Ryan) on an island holiday. Upon arrival at their hotel, we learn that Daniel and Susan’s relationship is under strain from their workaholic lifestyles, and they need a vacation even more than they realized.

The next morning, the loving and rested couple, certified scuba divers, board a local dive boat for an underwater tour of the reef. The boat is crowded with other vacationers, and due to a series of innocent miscommunications and a distracted crew, the couple is, after only 40 minutes or so underwater, accidentally left behind.

What follows is the story of their ordeal: cold, alone and miles from land, the couple is adrift in shark-infested waters.”

“Open Water” is a low-budget, independent project that flirts with the “thriller” genre, but tends to remain faithful to a tense, psychological drama. The real “twist” to this thriller is the viewer’s churning stomach, the physical manifestation of a mind set adrift (pun thoroughly intend) on the horrifying thought of “what if?” (Believe me, there is plenty of drifting going on!).

Writer, director, cinematographer, editor and producer Chris Kentis (Writer/Director, Grind, 1997) has taken an intriguing premise and a digital camera right into the deep part of the psyche and drawn out a universal sentiment… sheer terror! The hair-raising, goose bump inducing thrill of this film is absolutely authentic, because it is generated internally (more imagination and nightmare than special effect) and not in front of a blue screen or via CGI.

Don’t get me wrong, this is not a great film, but it achieves great effect. There are flashes of brilliance, the primary example being the premise. The cinematography is commendable (his scenes of open water are unnerving) and the use of abstract footage is sometimes effective. The camera angles and framing are artsy documentary and don’t move the story forward or draw in the viewer (with the maddeningly frightful exception of his shark shots!).

Daniel and Susan have finally set out on an island vacation for a long awaited diving expedition. They get to the island, check into the hotel and begin to check out the sites. After at least one day (but who really knows) of site seeing and shopping, the carefree couple settles into their room to rest up for the next day’s anticipated adventure. And then the drifting begins.

The film is drenched (again an intended pun) with profanity, including more than 30 (I eventually lost count) uses of our Lord’s name with vain intent, and 50 or so uses of the strongest slang available in English. There was also the most obvious example of gratuitous, full frontal female nudity cinematically possible. There was an attempt to justify it in a foreshadowing comment about the heat. There was no sex; she was not “in the mood.” Thank God for small and often unnoticed providences!

The fatal flaw in this film is the writing. Kentis’ main characters are sub-dimensional; he gives us very little in terms of development and certainly no reason, beyond an innate solidarity of life, (the same sentiment that causes my wife’s lower lip to tremble when we drive by a lifeless squirrel carcass) to care what happens to them as they drift along, “cold, alone and miles from land.” Kentis has very little to say. But we ought to listen, and carefully, because what little he does say should chill us deeper than any of the frightening images he conjures with his camera.

Kentis shows us that there is more to this life than the everyday rattle and hum. Indeed, against the backdrop of miles and miles of ocean, the rattle dissipates and the hum fades to silence. Man is fighting a futile battle against the “vast and indiscriminate power of nature.” But don’t miss the point: in this life there is more than man and nature. Nature has no being. For Kentis there is something more to this life than the stuff, the question is: “How do I get something more?”

That is the real terror, deeper than any shark could touch. The question at the heart of the fear that we cover over with sharks and jelly fish, barracudas and the possibility of starvation or drowning is this: “Am I alone in this world?”

Without a personal God who reveals Himself through nature and special revelation there is no hope. Without a personal God who would humiliate Himself on behalf of His creation there is no hope. Without a personal God who holds all of creation together for His purposes and glory, there is no hope and you are alone. “Open Water” misses this point altogether.

Violence: Minor / Profanity: Heavy / Sex/Nudity: Moderate

Viewer Comments
Negative—…an incredible reminder of just how insignificant humans can be in the larger picture. The main characters (who do not wear wedding bands, by the way) are portrayed with frightening perfection. I found the movie to be terrifying in the right ways. Not necessarily a “jump-out-of-your-seat” film, but that also wasn’t the goal.

The language is pretty bad, as noted above. Also, after a long bout of cursing God’s name, we hear the characters reciting the Lord’s Prayer. Quite a turn around, wouldn’t you think?

Also, the full-frontal nudity of Blanchard Ryan toward the beginning WAS incredibly unnecessary. She was not showering, not having sex… not doing anything that would necessitate her nudity. Why the director chose to include that scene, I have no idea.

With the exception of the nudity and the language, this movie IS clean (in terms of violence and gore, anyway). There is very little blood, but a scene toward the end of the film will cause some to cringe. Overall, an excellently filmed, acted, and produced film… but not recommended for Christians.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive/4]
—Nathan Rossin, age 23
Negative—…the only redeeming quality of this movie was the director’s style of filming (i.e., the camera angles and effects). Aside from that, this movie is a flop. First of all it’s only an hour and 15 minutes long, which hardly warranted the $7.50 I paid to go see it. Second of all, there is no real character development, so I actually felt little to no connection with the characters in their perdicament which made it a lot less tense. However, the worst thing about the movie is a scene near the beginning which is mentioned above where the main character’s wife is seen totally nude on screen for a long time. This had NOTHING to do with the story at all, and was totally untasteful, tacky, and flat out unnecessary, just for that scene alone I wouldn’t recommend seeing the movie… I wish I had just kept my money.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive/2]
—Justin Schrader, age 18
Positive—I enjoyed this film. I thought it was thought-provoking, and it stuck with me a long time after seeing it. Yes, the nude scene near the beginning is gratuitous, and is my biggest complaint with the film. There is some cursing, but I don’t recall the 50+ that the reviewer mentioned. Of course, if the actors had said “Golly gee, we’re stranded in the middle of the ocean!,” that wouldn’t really be believable, would it?

What I thought was believable was the dialogue between the couple, especially during the tense situations. If you are looking for a thrill-a-minute, CGI-packed adventure, this is not the movie for you. However, if you like an intelligent and well-made film with a haunting premise and direction, then check it out. Plus, what other movie has actors in the water with real sharks?
My Ratings: [Very Offensive/4]
—Scott, age 32
Negative—…this movie isn’t what I thought it would be. There is some bad language, unnecessary nude scene, and character development wasn’t great either. However, you did feel the creepy-ness of it, the sense of what it would be like to be lost at sea, water all around you, gives you an erie sick feeling. It was almost like a documentary. Overall, I thought the movie was kind of stupid, save your money.
My Ratings: [Average/2]
—Kriss, age 23
Neutral—I had no idea what to expect when I went in to see this movie. I was surprised it wasn’t a high budget Hollywood film but, in essence, like it was a home video. Accepting that, my husband and I watched with intrigue as the story unfolded. This movie is different because of the fact it was based on a true story. It drew you into the characters more than if you were to watch “Jaws” or some other thriller. It’s personal. There are lessons to learn here for divers and diving company. And hopefully through this tragedy, people will be more aware. Whether or not the divers really died of dehydration, sharks, or self inflicted drowning, though terribly horrifying, is only the first part of the tragedy. My husband pointed out to me how hopeless those two were. And how many people in this world are in that same situation, though safe from immediate danger, are hopeless. Thus, the urgency to want to share the gospel of Christ. This is a very good movie… sad… and realistically horrifying… but if it makes you think about the brevity of life then so be it.
My Ratings: [Average/3]
—Shana, age 31
Positive—I actually enjoyed this movie. For an indie film it was pretty good. It wasn’t scary but it kept you on the edge of your seat. While there was quite a bit of language it did keep it tone with what it would be like out there.

…Yes, the nudity was unnecessary, but I think it was a lot more artistically done than other movies. Most movies only show nudity when sex is going on, or someone is taking their clothes off and changing. Something like this is more natural to what people are actually like. People don’t only get nude to change or have sex. I also think it spoke about the relationship between the married couple. It was definitely a lot more plausible than other nude scenes I’ve seen.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/4½]
—Matthew, age 20
Negative—I thought that the acting in the movie was excellent and the movie itself was real good but I don’t approve of the f-word and the Lord’s name in vain plus the whole nude body of the female was not appropriate.
My Ratings: [Average/2]
Positive—The amazing thing about this “film” (shot on video) is that it cost very little to make. It’s an accomplishment and a curiosity. So many comments are in this forum from those offended by nudity. Come on, the film is rated R—what did you expect? When you see the “R” on the poster, stay home. Hypocrites don’t look good gloating. From the rough language, we can assume the characters are not church-goers, yet when exhausted, despairing, and confronted with a fearful death, they pray to God. Precisely because these characters are nominally non-believers, their prayer has the greatest impact on a general audience. Look beyond the breasts.
—M Backauskas, age 50
Positive—We can only imagine what truly happened to this couple that terrible day. What they thought, what they said. What a horrifying and tragic way to die. If anything this movie has moved me to a deeper compassion to speak of our Redeemer. They were more than just lost at sea, they were lost period. This is something we need to understand in order to see past the worldly ways of this movie. This story is based on true events—someone’s life—it’s not just a movie. I was left with a sadness for all who don’t know our Savior but also with a hope that as I do my part in this world my sadness will turn to joy.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/3]
—Kathy Ortiz, age 43
Negative—This movie sent me to bed with a sick feeling in my stomach. I was hoping to see something inspiring come out of a bad situation, yet that was not the case. If anything would make someone cry out to God, being stranded in shark-infested waters should do it. However, there was only one quietly murmured prayer. This movie was a waste of my time.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive/2]
—Holly B., age 29
Positive—The point of this movie was to show one of a million things that could have happened to that poor couple. No one knows except their family what kind of people they were. I liked the movie a lot. This film was well made for a low budget film. the nudity I can get over. I am a believer, but under that much stress and disorientation, who knows what you would be saying. And like so many other comments it was rated R. Under my faith I am a follower of God and Jesus Christ.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/5]
—Melissa, age 27

Comments from young people
Neutral—This was an okay movie. It did not have as much scary content as I thought it might. It is a pretty short film, but is kind of slow at times. It’s more like a home video and the sound could have been better…
My Ratings: [Average/1½]
—AW, age 17
Negative—I’m a sucker for scary movies, so when I read the reviews and heard the comments about this film I HAD to see it! My sister (24) and a bunch of her friends were going out to eat and to see the flick. I was up for it. When I walked out of the theatre I HONESTLY wanted my money back. I even went to a friend working in the theatre and told her my thoughts on the movie—she, and all her co-workers, even thought it was horrible. Out of all the movies I have EVER seen this has to be on my Top 5 WORST. I would NOT waste my money on see this. Even if it was FREE.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive/1½]
—Micah, age 16
Negative—While I had heard this was better then JAWS I disagree. First of all why did they need the first scene where the woman was lying naked. Me, my parents, my grandparents, and my 11, 8, and 6 year old siblings were watching. We were taken by surprise at this scene. Then there was the cussing, which I really disliked. They said God’s name in vain way to many times. But besides that it was really boring watching the two characters sitting in the water and then both dying.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive/1½]
—Richard, age 15
Negative—…“Open Water” painfully tries to be an enjoyable film but ultimately flops. Its an interesting look into what it might be like in the situation presented, however, its just not an entertaining movie experience. It’s not a thriller or a horror movie in the least. Its an hour of two people floating in the ocean and occasionally a fin slipping by. A DVD rental is more along the lines for this one, but don’t expect the next “JAWS.” As far as scary movies go I think “Finding Nemo” is more along its terror levels. Rated R : 20 something f-words—Full frontal nudity.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive/2]
—Gene Angel, age 17
Negative—…this movie was so patheic, there are no word’s to describe it… 1) The direction was so horrible you could get sea sick and dizzy by watching… 2) There is a scene with a naked woman, though she’s laying down, so it doesn’t show her rear end, or her front, however you a crystal clear shot of her breast, (ironicly that was the only time the camera was steady, 3) Profanity, there is use of the F-word quite a bit, just guessing, probably about ten time’s, give or take, along with a few other’s including, G__D___, note, G_D___ is only used once, but still bad. I almost fell asleep of boredom. There was nothing scary about this movie. This movie is more of a comedy, then a scary film… Note, this is not a film for childeren, even though I saw a lot of childeren in the theater…
My Ratings: [1]
—Michelle, age 14
Movie Critics
…fright fest peppered with enough payoffs and glossed with a mournful philosophic overlay. The deep has never been so creepy…
—Sid Smith, Chicago Tribune
…neither documentary nor Hollywood horror story, though it has elements of both… will scare you out of the water…
—Jean Loweriso, San Diego Metropolitan
…low-budget thriller… goes adrift about halfway from shore…
—Stella Papamichael, BBC Films
…a homemade, low-budget indie… without doubt one of the scariest, creepiest, gut-churningly unsettling pictures to come along in ages…
—Steven Rea, Philadelphia Inquirer
…digitally shot, edited-in-a-garage hair-raiser that was dubbed “Blair Witch” meets “Jaws.” As fumbling and limited as it is, “Open Water” succeeds…
—Ty Burr, Boston Globe