A harrassed yuppie couple, Susan (Blanchard Ryan) and Daniel (Daniel Travis) are off on their annual holiday. They have found time in amongst their busy work schedule to visit the Carribbean, and when they arrive they settle down to the usual round of sightseeing, relaxing on the beach and shopping for souvenirs. Their relationship may be showing a few signs of strain, but they are happy enough in each other's company, so the next morning they set out for a diving excursion. Plenty of people do it and come to no harm, but Susan and Daniel's trip out to sea is going to be different - a lot different...
When Open Water first started causing a stir, it was described as Jaws meets the Blair Witch Project, and sharks apart, it's not difficult to see why. Written by director Chris Kentis, it's a defiantly low budget yet high concept affair, shot on video and telling a simple story of survival against the odds, with bickering and wobbly camera work as embellishment. When the story starts, the film makers don't make much of an effort by way of characterisation, it's almost as if they're barely interested and are reluctant to spend too much time hanging around with the couple on dry land, even throwing in gratuitious nudity to half-heartedly add spice to the bland early scenes.
Once our "heroes" (victims would be more appropriate) get out on the boat, the matter of fact presentation doesn't let up. We are treated to the guide instructing the holidaymakers in the safety procedures, a minor drama when one tourist forgets his diving mask and can't partcipate, and once they commence the dive, one woman has problems with her ear and has to give up. All the while Daniel and Susan explore the deep, taking photographs, stroking fish and generally enjoying themselves. Then the crucial twist: the strident fellow who forgot his mask takes the place of the afflicted woman, so that when the dive is over and everyone is counted in, Daniel and Susan are accidentally left behind.
This is the point where the tension creeps into proceedings. A message at the start informs us all this was based on a true story, and the documentary style realism that has been attempted thus far begins to pay off. At first Daniel and Susan wave their arms above their heads as they have been told when they realise the boat has left them behind, but it is clear this is having no benefit when nothing comes of it. Daniel has obviously been reading the right magazines and watching the right television documentaries, because he knows not to drink sea water if you get thirsty, and that flailing around in the water will attract unwelcome attention.
An offhand comment before about noticing a shark down there is now loaded with significance when one of the killer fish takes a nibble at Susan's leg - not a huge bite, just testing to see what she tastes like. The seascape, turning bleak and grey and hostile, only underlines the total isolation of the couple, and the fact that sharks are taking an interest makes their desperation to be rescued all the more palpable. Various obstacles make their presence felt, such as jellyfish and seasickness, as the suffering duo are carried by the current. We don't even get to see any signs that anyone is looking for them - such scenes on land are kept to a minimum until late on in the film. The brave ending may have you wondering why you spent time with these people, and the lack of much personality may have you wondering that long before the denouement, but there's no denying the suspense of the central, shark-filled idea, and the success of its latter stages. Music by Graham Revell.