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LION'S GATE

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Chris Kentis
Cast:
Blanchard Ryan, Daniel Travis, Saul Stein, Estelle Lau, Michael E. Williamson, Cristina Zenarro, John Charles
Writing Credits:
Chris Kentis

Tagline:
Inspired by true events.

Synopsis:
A young thirtysomething couple goes on holiday to the Caribbean. One of the fun activities open to them is scuba diving off a reef several miles out. Due to a faulty head count taken by the dive boat crew, the couple is left behind in the open ocean. They find themselves drifting endlessly for hours on end, facing dehydration, saltwater sickness, jellyfish stings, and the most frightening menace - sharks! Although several boats and ships pass by within the couple's view, none sees them, and they are not discovered missing until the following morning when the dive boat crew discovers their gear on the boat, and their hotel manager discovers they never returned to their room. Frantically a search is mounted by plane, boat and helicopter. But it may be too late for the young couple, adrift in the ... Open Water!

Box Office:
Budget
$1300 thousand.
Opening Weekend
$1.100 million on 47 screens.
Domestic Gross
$30.500 million.

MPAA:
Rated R

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1 EX
English DTS 5.1 ES
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 80 min.
Price: $14.98
Release Date: 12/24/2004

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Director Chris Kentis and Producer Laura Lau
• Audio Commentary with Actors Blanchard Ryan and Daniel Travis
• Deleted Scenes
• “The Indie Essentials” Featurette
• “Calm Before the Storm: The Making of Open Water
• Bonus On-Location Footage with Director Chris Kentis
• Trailer


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EQUIPMENT
Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


Open Water (2003)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 2, 2006)

I never learned how to swim, and friends occasionally give me grief about this. However, films like Open Water remind me why I’m happy to remain firmly landlocked: because I’ll never be tempted to put myself in a situation where a shark can eat me.

Water introduces us to a busy couple: Daniel Kintner (Daniel Travis) and his workaholic girlfriend Susan Watkins (Blanchard Ryan). Her hectic schedule forces them to change vacation plans and take a spontaneous trip to the islands. They go there to try to reconnect and revive their obviously strained relationship.

As part of this, they take a deep-sea diving excursion. All seems fine until the tour guide screws up his head-count and leaves without them. They surface and find the boat nowhere in their vicinity. The rest of the movie follows their time in the water as they try to stay sane and alive amidst a variety of sharks.

If you go into Open Water expecting an action spectacular, you’ll walk away disappointed. Though the movie makes some clear nods toward Jaws - check out the last names of our leads for one big homage – it doesn’t delve into the same adventure territory.

Indeed, Water delights in the spearing of expectations. I don’t think the film actively toys with the audience as it subverts what we anticipate, but it also doesn’t kowtow to genre conventions. That means a surprising ending and many other elements that we don’t usually see in this sort of film.

Really, Water is a character drama more than an action flick. Kind of a Blair Witch Project with sharks, it seems likely to polarize audiences. Some will find terror in the plight of Susan and Daniel, as they’ll identify with the believability of the situation. Others will leave the flick bored since not a whole lot actually happens. Like Witch, Water provides long stretches of not-very-much punctuated by moments of loud fright.

As for me, I ended up somewhere in the middle. I appreciated what the film tried to do and liked that it took the path less traveled. That said, it did feel padded at times, as it struggled to reach an acceptable feature film length. (80 minutes barely cuts it.) It takes an awfully long time to get our leads in their frightening position, and a lot of that material drags. We see too much set-up on the way to the meat of the film, and the expository moments add little but length to the experience.

I have to say that I don’t like the film’s use of digital video. I realize that DV offers low-budget moviemakers the ability to create flicks that would otherwise be too expensive for them, and I appreciate the fact that it democratizes the whole process. Unfortunately, in this case, the DV makes the flick look cheap. Too much of the time it comes across like an amateur home movie. Matters improve a bit as the film progresses; the most “home made” shots pop up early. Nonetheless, I couldn’t quite get away from the feeling that a bunch of pals shot this sucker on the weekends.

Actually, that’s pretty close to the truth of the production, and that’s fine. You just don’t want your movie to look like that’s how you made it. The DV doesn’t add verisimilitude; it just appears bargain basement.

I think the film overcomes that flaw and the vague amateurishness that often infects it. One positive comes from some nicely understated character development. We quickly glean that Susan and Daniel are going through a rough patch in their relationship, but the film doesn’t beat us over the head with this concept. It conveys that issue and others with subtlety and trusts that we’ll figure out the scenarios on our own.

The reactions displayed by Daniel and Susan also smack of reality. Admittedly, the whining gets a little old, but I can’t argue that their griping wouldn’t really take place. Of course anyone stuck in that situation would bitch and moan. The film portrays their interactions with a good dose of believability.

Open Water will likely end up as a polarizing film for many. I think the movie suffers from a number of flaws but does more right than wrong in the end. It presents an unusual take on an old genre.


The DVD Grades: Picture C+/ Audio B+/ Bonus B

Open Water appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Because Water was shot totally on digital video (DV) cameras, that made the picture tough to rate. While it seemed to represent the original footage accurately, the movie sometimes didn’t look very good by modern standards.

Sharpness caused some of the problems. Most close-ups and medium shots seemed nicely delineated and well defined. However, some medium and the majority of wide images came across as moderately soft and indistinct. Despite the flick’s lower-resolution origins, neither jagged edges nor moiré effects caused concerns. However, some fairly prominent haloes popped up occasionally and created moderate distractions. I couldn’t tell if these resulted from the original footage or they appeared via edge enhancement, but they made the same distractions nonetheless. No issues related to print flaws appeared, as the movie appeared to come straight from the original video and lacked defects. Occasional examples of video artifacting appeared at times, especially during low-light shots.

Due to a combination of the DV and the ocean-bound setting of the movie, colors looked fairly bland. Face it: ocean water doesn’t offer lots of opportunities for lively hues, though the neon colors on the diving outfits added life. Back on the island, the colors were stronger and demonstrated reasonably peppy tones, though the DV image still suffered from some murkiness. Blacks seemed acceptably deep and dense, but shadows varied. Some low-light shots were pretty concise and appropriately developed, but others were a bit thick and murky. Ultimately, Water appeared to accurately replicate the source material, warts and all.

Though the audio of Open Water also featured positives and negatives, it offered more consistent pleasures than the picture. The DVD came with both Dolby Digital 5.1 EX and DTS 6.1 ES soundtracks. Don’t expect to hear substantial differences between the two. To my ears, the pair sounded virtually identical.

My main complaint related to the quality of the speech. Especially in the first third of the movie, dialogue was often thin and reedy. Obviously the quality of the audio equipment used on the set wasn’t great, for speech recorded under those circumstances – whether during interior shots or on the tour boat – tended to be edgy and somewhat tough to understand. Surprisingly, I encountered no such problems for lines that came while Susan and Daniel floated at sea. I don’t know whether the crew used better equipment for those scenes or they looped this material later, but those shots – which dominated the movie – presented much more natural and distinctive dialogue.

Otherwise, audio quality was good. Some of the movie’s music featured excessive bass. The low-end wasn’t boomy or distorted, but it just seemed too prominent. This wasn’t consistent, though, and many elements sounded just fine. Effects were very well-defined. They offered good clarity and dimensionality to pack a strong punch.

While the soundfield didn’t go nuts throughout the whole movie, it kicked into action well when it mattered. Since the movie varied from many quiet scenes to the occasional frantic one, the latter made the strongest impact. The softer shots were moderately restricted. They added general ocean ambience, and that worked nicely; waves lapped around us in a convincing manner. When the track went more active, the spectrum opened up well and effects popped up within logical and appropriate spots. Overall, despite some iffy dialogue, the package impressed, especially given the film’s low-budget origins.

For this DVD release of Open Water, we get a mix of supplements. The disc includes two separate audio commentaries, the first of which comes from director Chris Kentis and producer Laura Lau. The married couple chat together in this running, screen-specific discussion. They touch on their style of visual storytelling, working with real sharks, the genesis of the project and its origins, locations and problems with the low budget, continuity issues, Blanchard Ryan’s fear of sharks, editing and the tight script.

At its best, this commentary gives us a nice overview of the production and the relevant subjects. However, as is unfortunately so often the case, an abundance of praise for everything related to the film mars the discussion. We get so much happy talk that it becomes a real distraction. There’s still enough useful material here to make the commentary worth a listen, but prepare yourself for a lot of fluff as well.

The second audio commentary features actors Blanchard Ryan and Daniel Travis. Both sit together for their running, screen-specific track. I’m tempted to simply cut and paste my notes about the prior commentary, for the actors’ chat strongly resembles it. They touch on virtually all of the same issues, albeit with a moderately different focus. Ryan and Travis give us a better feel for the actors’ perspective on matters, and that lends a first-hand feel absent from the earlier piece. That said, there’s simply not a lot of fresh material on display here, and the commentary becomes fairly redundant if you already listened to the first track.

Seven Deleted Scenes run between 26 seconds and two minutes, 18 seconds. All together, they fill nine minutes, 29 seconds. Don’t expect much gold here, as we mostly see bland shots of Susan and Daniel. Only one scene shows them at sea, so the majority give us minor and unnecessary exposition. At least we find out whether or not they’re married.

Billed as “A Filmmakers’ Guide to Gearing Up for a Marketable Movie”, The Indie Essentials lasts five minutes and two seconds. It includes comments from Lau, Kentis, Lions Gate Films Acquisitions VP Jason Constantine, Lions Gate Films President of Acquisitions Peter Block, and Lions Gate Films Theatrical Releasing President Tom Ortenberg. They talk about what attracts them to independent projects and offer a few tips to filmmakers who want to get noticed. It acts as a short and only moderately interesting overview.

For a look behind the scenes, we head to Calm Before the Storm: The Making of Open Water. This 15-minute and 48-second show presents notes from Kentis, Lau, Ryan, Travis, Ortenberg and shark wrangler Stuart Cove. They discuss the origins of the project, its low budget and the equipment used, casting and characters, the lengthy shoot and dealing with sharks, editing and test screenings, and the film’s reception and distribution. Inevitably, some of the information repeats from the commentaries, but plenty of new topics emerge. I especially like the parts related to the movie’s post-production and screenings, as these offer good details about the issues connected to that part of things.

In addition to the film’s theatrical trailer, we get bonus on-location footage with director Chris Kentis. This two-minute and 29-second snippet shows us just how close Kentis came to the sharks during the making of the film. (Answer: pretty damned close.)

Few will consider Open Water to be the definitive shark movie, but then again, it doesn’t aspire to that title. Instead, it attempts to create an unusual take on the genre, and it succeeds in that it provides something different and often engaging. The DVD offers adequate picture with good audio and a flawed but still decent set of supplements. Open Water has proven too polarizing for me to recommend a blind buy, but I’d advise that you at least give it a rental and see what you think.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.4 Stars Number of Votes: 5
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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main