Normally, there is a big difference in a movie that is "based on a true story" and a movie that is "inspired by a true story." If a movie is "based on a true story" you get the feeling that the movie will have more of a true account of the events that surround the film. When a movie is "inspired by a true story" you get the feeling that they take the bare bones of a true story and fictionally spruce it up to play better on film. Open Water is tagged as being "based off a true story" but it should've been "inspired by a true story" because the sheer logistics of the story and how it plays out. There are some truly bone-chilling, edge-of-your-seat scenes here, but the whole thing just didn't work.
Right away in this movie you get the feel that this is The Blair Witch Project in the sea, instead of the woods. The amateur-ish camera work is nearly identical in both flicks. What pissed me off about this movie is that there's no call for it. In The Blair Witch Project, you know right away that all of the footage is supposed to be shot by these amateurs, that just like playing around with a video camera. It serves a purpose, to give the feel that these kids shot the whole thing themselves. In Open Water, the main characters do not shoot this themselves (although that probably would've worked a lot better) and the filmmakers were just trying to give it the same feel, although it was just plain unnecessary. The budget was fairly miniscule here ($130,000) but digital cameras are pretty damn cheap these days, and I don't know why they went the Blair Witch route.
Besides that, for a movie that is only 79 minutes long, it sure does take awhile to get going, or at least it seems this way. The whole flick feels like an incredibly long 79 minutes, but it probably could've even been shorter in the beginning, by at least 5 minutes. The story goes like this: an overworked couple (Daniel Travis and Blanchard Ryan) go on this ocean diving excursion and by a miscommunication, are left alone in the ocean, proving the worthlessness of the "buddy system."
There are a couple of things here which got on my nerves. There is one part, a few hours into their ocean solitude, where a boat is coming right for them. Now, we know they're not going to be saved, but they just don't tell us why. They show the boat coming at them, and the next shot is them alone again. What happened to that frickin boat? They just glossed over it, which is retarded because if it was really coming right at them, which it looked like, there had to have been something fairly dramatic to happen for that boat to miss them. Another thing is there is a part where they try to use their plastic face masks to reflect light and get the attention of a big tanker-like boat. That makes sense, except for that it's a plastic mask, and the guy has a big frickin metal knife that would've done the job about a trillion times better than those stupid masks. I'm not saying that I'm Jacques Cousteau or anything, but damn! It just didn't make sense.
The good things about this movie is that writer-director Chris Kentis has captured some of the most truly frightening images in years. He has a true sense of horror filmmaking here, and the shots with Travis and Ryan in very close proximity to these sharks (which were all real sharks, no CGI, by the way) are marvelously done. The acting here, which except for tiny bits and pieces from other people, is all from Travis and Ryan, is pretty good in some parts, and fairly bad in others. Oh, and for the guys, there is a very nice, if not gratuitous, shot of Blanchard Ryan in the buff. Sure, they didn't really need it, but I wasn't complaining...
Also like The Blair Witch Project, there doesn't seem like much of a script here, from writer-director Kentis. The dialogue all seems improvised, and, like the acting, some of it works, but most of it doesn't. The ending is quite shocking, and I liked it a lot...until I started to think about actual logic. It worked on a cinematic level, but for something that is supposed to be "based off a true story" it didn't fly with me. If you stick around through the end credits, they try to pull this Dawn of the Dead (remake) thing that is supposed to "explain" things, but, while it was a little bit cool, if you think about it, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense. If I would've came into this not knowing it was "based off a true story," or even knowing it was "inspired by a true story" I think I would've liked it a lot more than I did. There's that damn brain getting in the way again...
Open Water is a movie that shows what happens when the buddy system fails and you're up the proverbial sh*t creek/ocean without a paddle. This movie will be worthless on DVD, because if you see it, it definitely needs to be in the theater. This is The Blair Witch Project of shark movies, and while there are some truly terrifying moments here, this just wasn't my cup of saltwater.