Open Water 2: Adrift
directed by Hans Horn
(Lions Gate, 2006)

After reading the premise of this movie, I just had to see it. Six friends jump off a yacht to take a swim in the ocean, only to realize that they are royally screwed because nobody thought to let the ladder down. In other words, they've jumped in and they can't get up. As one of the characters actually says, the circumstances would be funny if they weren't so serious.

Honestly, I expected this to be some kind of B-movie I could laugh at. Instead, it's a polished production, and there's nothing funny about it. You won't be traumatized by any means, but this is one deadly serious film that almost forces you to imagine yourself in the same situation. For me, it was like having claustrophobia out in the middle of the ocean -- a weird concept, of course, but that's how it made me feel. I'm really surprised the film gets so many lukewarm and negative reviews. I found it intense, and I was delighted that things didn't play out the way I expected. The director threw us a curveball at the end, with a pretty ambiguous ending, but after a little thought I can't even criticize that decision, as I believe it ties in with the real story that inspired the film.

A group of old friends get together for a weekend on the high seas, and it looks like a good time will be had by all on board Dan's (Eric Dane) luxurious yacht. (Of course, to really enjoy the cruise, you sort of need to be on the yacht most of the time -- aye, that's the rub.) Three guys, three gals and a baby whose mother has a major water phobia make up the passenger manifest. Some viewers don't seem to like some of these characters, but we really don't get to know any of them intimately before the real drama begins. They're basically just normal people, and that helps put you into the "what would I do in their situation?" mindset.

Let's just look at some of the things we can learn from this movie. 1) If a childhood tragedy has given you a major water phobia, you might want to just pass on the private yacht vacation thing, especially if you have a baby to take care of. 2) Out of every six people, at least one of them is the kind of jerk who will try to cure a friend's fear of the water by picking her up and jumping into the ocean with her. 3) This one's really important -- don't forget to let the ladder down before you and everyone else on board go for a swim in the ocean because you cannot get back up on the yacht without a ladder. 4) In this kind of dangerous situation, don't fight over the very sharp knife. 5) When "nuding up" to make a rope out of your clothes, let the lightest person -- not the biggest guy -- try to climb up the "rope" first. 6) When desperately trying to get back to the surface after a dive, watch your freakin' head. 7) When facing such a "what a stupid way to die" situation such as this, you learn a whole lot about your friends.

Open Water 2: Adrift (which is its own film and not a true sequel to Open Water) turned out to be really intense. Desperation comes quickly and only grows as the whole situation worsens. A full two-thirds of this film takes place in the ocean itself. I know you're probably expecting a shark attack to come along at some point -- I know I was -- but don't be disappointed by the complete absence of deadly oceanic predators in this film. I think a shark attack would have actually hurt the story, as it would take something away from the intensely personal tragedy these poor people have to face. With no outside threat to unite against, these characters quickly turn against one another, making their situation even direr in the process. Then you have the sounds of the baby crying every now and again, adding even more to the angst the characters are feeling and emoting, especially the child's mother Amy (Susan May Pratt). Some viewers are going to quibble and go into a "they should have done this or that" kind of mania as they watch the film, but I found it really quite realistic in terms of the situation.

My first reaction to the film's ending was less than enthusiastic -- it's one of those "please don't end it like this --- aaaarrgghhh" types of ending. After reading one of the director's comments and taking a few moments to reflect on it, however, I find myself having no problem whatsoever with the ambiguity of that final minute. Not surprisingly, I think this is a great, underrated movie; it certainly exceeded my somewhat low expectations by leaps and bounds.

review by
Daniel Jolley

21 July 2007

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