Open Water (2003)

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Released 6-Jan-2005

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Introduction
Menu Animation & Audio
Audio Commentary-Filmmakers - Chris Kentis And Laura Lau
Audio Commentary-Blanchard Ryan And Daniel Travis (Actors)
Featurette-Attacking The Shark Myth - Shark Conservation
Featurette-Making Of-Calm Before The Storm
Featurette-The Indie Essentials
Deleted Scenes
Featurette-Open Water Survival Guide
Theatrical Trailer-2
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2003
Running Time 76:41
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (59:32) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Chris Kentis
Studio
Distributor

Warner Home Video
Starring Blanchard Ryan
Daniel Travis
Saul Stein
Estelle Lau
Michael E. Williamson
Cristina Zenarro
John Charles
Case ?
RPI $29.95 Music Graeme Revell


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes

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Plot Synopsis

    Inspired by a true story, Open Water is a harrowing film about two scuba divers accidentally abandoned in chilly, shark-infested waters. It is undoubtedly one of the most white-knuckled, intense, and suspenseful thrillers that I have ever seen. Open Water had me genuinely squirming in my seat, and it is definitely one of the must-see DVDs for 2005!

    Produced, written, directed, edited, and shot by husband and wife team (scuba divers) Chris Kentis and Laura Lau, Open Water is inspired by the tragedy of Tom and Eileen Lonergan, who were accidentally abandoned at sea in 1998, off the Great Barrier Reef. Open Water imagines and intensely brings to life the torment and helplessness of their plight.

    Running for under 80 minutes, Open Water could not be accused of wasting time with unnecessary plot contrivances: Susan (Blanchard Ryan) and Daniel (Daniel Travis) are stressed-out, mid-30s executive types. Susan and Daniel have torn themselves away from their mobile phones, PDAs, diaries, and business meetings to squeeze a hurried diving trip into their busy schedules. They seem a little bit yuppie, snobby, and elitist, and naturally feel the need to "separate from the crowd" once they plunge off the back of their diving tour boat.

    However, through a (sadly) rather realistic headcount error, Susan and Daniel are left behind. When they reappear on the ocean's surface they are confused. Naturally at first they assume their boat will return, and they joke and banter between themselves to pass the time. Soon, however, they realise that the boat is not coming back, and they are not alone . . .

    "I don't know which is worse, seeing them or not seeing them" (Susan).

    This film reminds us that big budgets and lavish sets are not required to make a good film. The small fortune spent on Deep Blue Sea's dodgy CGI sharks is no match for a handheld digital camera, a real diver stuck trembling in the middle of a real ocean, and a real shark brushing up against her. Indeed, few films could produce the heart-pounding rush provided by Open Water. Even with Jaws, we were protected from true fear by knowing that the giant shark wasn't real.

    The actors' performances are terrifyingly realistic, and no doubt are aided by the fact that the actors truly fear for their lives. After all, these are real people (with protective chain mesh under their suits), with real sharks in the ocean. Kentis positioned bloody bait in the water to provide the nerve-jangling shark/actor encounters.

    With Open Water, as an audience, we experience the awful terror and the psychological struggle that occurs when two people are abandoned and faced with unwinnable odds.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    It is important to remember that this film was made "on weekends" over a few years with a paltry budget of $US130,000. While there are some 'issues' with the DVD's image, they mostly relate to the limited source material, and not to the DVD authoring.

    Sadly, however, while the film was edited on Digital Video, it was then transferred to film, and then to DVD. Surely it would have been better to transfer directly to DVD from the original digital source?

    Open Water was shot with hand-held DV cameras (not the fancy high-definition type). But, as with The Blair Witch Project, this actually helps the film a lot, as we feel like we're watching home video footage.

    The transfer is presented in its original widescreen aspect ratio of 1.85:1. It is 16x9 enhanced.

    The sharpness is variable. While the on-screen titles, such as the opening credits are crisp, the video image can often appear soft and lacking detail, such as at 17:44. The shadow detail also suffers due to the high-contrast image that video produces. An example of this is the shot at 8:06. Some low level noise is also visible.

    The colours often appear muted, which is partly due to the source material, but regardless, it suits the film's mood very well. The water gains a black, mysterious and metallic sheen, and its dark depths hide the unknown.

    The image often seems to suffer from MPEG artefacts, such as pixelization, but I am sure a lot of this is due to the source material, and not the disc authoring. For example, some of the zoomed underwater shots have the image quality of an emailed MPEG. The image is also often very grainy, such as at 6:57.

    Film-to-video artefacts appear throughout in the form of aliasing. There are no problems with film artefacts, but many of the images suffer from a vertical banding (from the video tape source), such as at 16:53.

    Surprisingly, there are no subtitles provided.

    This is a Dual-Layered disc, with the layer change poorly placed during a tense moment at 59:32.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The audio initially sounds a little thin and tinny in the opening land-based sequences. I'm assuming standard DAT was used. Once we find ourselves in the sea, however, the sound improves greatly. I'm not sure if this was an intended dramatic device.

    There are four audio options on this DVD: English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s), English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s), English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s), and a second English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s).

    The dialogue quality and audio sync are fine on the default English Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track.

    The musical score is credited to Kiwi Graeme Ravell, and it really does help to underline the emotion, as well as heighten the tension throughout.

    Considering the modest source material, I was pleasantly surprised with the surround presence and LFE activity. While the surround sound mix is quite front-heavy (a lot of dialogue comes from the centre speaker), the rear speakers are used effectively to provide ambience throughout. A good example of the use of the rears is the wind at 63:10. There are not a great deal of rear directional effects, but I did notice some panning between speakers at times, such as the passing helicopter at 68:37.

    The subwoofer is also subtly utilised throughout, such as for the thunder at 64:54.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    There are a few genuine extras.

Menu

    A cleverly themed and animated menu, with audio.

Audio Commentary-Filmmakers - Chris Kentis And Laura Lau

    This married couple provide a chatty and informative commentary. Their comments are very screen-specific, and cover everything from the nuances in the story to the technical challenges of filming. They also provide some trivia and anecdotes throughout.

Audio Commentary-Blanchard Ryan And Daniel Travis (Actors)

    The two principal actors discuss the problems of filming a low-budget movie "over years". Again very screen specific, the actors tend to focus on their characters and their personal feelings rather than the technical aspects of the filmmaking process.

Featurette-Attacking The Shark Myth - Shark Conservation (10:27)

    After terrifying us to wit's end during the feature, this extra attempts to tell us that sharks aren't monsters, but are our friends, and need to be protected. Of course we all know this to be true. If in doubt, Dr. Robert E. Hueter, Director of the Centre for Shark Research, Mote Marine Laboratory, explains why our finned friends need to be looked after.

Featurette-Making Of-Calm Before The Storm (15:51)

    This relatively short making-of featurette looks at the process of how a news article became a script, which in turn became a very successful film.

Featurette-The Indie Essentials

    As mentioned earlier, this film was made "on weekends" over a few years, with a paltry budget of $US130,000. However, it was later sold to Lion's Gate at the Sundance Film Festival for $US2.5 million. Described as "A Filmmakers Guide to Gearing Up for a Marketable Movie", this featurette briefly looks at what the Film Acquisitions folk look for at film festivals.

Deleted Scenes (7:53)

    There are six deleted/extended scenes, presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, non-16x9 enhanced, with Dolby Digital stereo audio.

Featurette-Open Water Survival Guide (8:15)

    I found this snippet of diver education surprisingly interesting. It also presents a few safety articles that divers should carry with them.

Theatrical Trailer 1  - Open Water (0:53)

    Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, non-16x9 enhanced, with Dolby Digital stereo audio.

Theatrical Trailer 2  - Open Water (1:37)

    Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, non-16x9 enhanced, with Dolby Digital stereo audio.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    Open Water was released on DVD in Region 1 in December 2004.

    The Region 4 DVD misses out on:

    The Region 1 DVD misses out on:

    While the lure of dts 6.1 sounds enticing, based on the limited source material, I can't imagine that the R1 DVD experience would be any better. I will call this one even.

Summary

    Open Water is a low-budget gem that provides a suspenseful and terrifying experience.

    The video quality is slightly disappointing but still very watchable.

    The audio quality is good albeit a little limited.

    The extras are genuine and interesting.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Brandon Robert Vogt (warning: bio hazard)
Monday, January 10, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-535, using S-Video output
DisplayGrundig Elegance 82-2101 (82cm, 16x9). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationSony STR DE-545
SpeakersSony SS-V315 x5; Sony SA-WMS315 subwoofer

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
Same movie -
I'm confused -
The R1 has DTS ES -
I cannot agree with the review - Alfred S (read my bio)