This is the stuff nightmares are made of. It's also a lesson for shoe-string
filmmakers in how low budgets need not mean low dramatic effect. This
gripping tale demonstrates how wise it is to take a scenario full of natural
fright and foreboding and turn it into a tight thematic thriller.
Writer-director-co-cinematographer-editor Chris Kentis and
partner-producer-co-cinematographer Laura Lau had one more thing going for
them: their story is based on an actual occurrence.
Daniel and Susan (Daniel Travis and Blanchard Ryan) are a young, yuppie
couple whose marriage is feeling the strains of work pressure and, wisely,
take a much needed vacation. They've decided on an island holiday where, as
certified scuba divers, they can adventure out to sea for a spot of
The dive boat is full. Once anchored miles from shore, the deck comes alive
as the divers don their gear and plunge off the stern. As each buddy team
jumps off, a crewman takes count. Daniel and Susan are among the 20 that
dive into the tropical depths. But one man, who apparently came alone,
failed to bring his face mask and mutters in annoyance as he's obliged to
One of the divers, however, can't clear her ears and therefore can't make it
down to the reef. She and her buddy return to the boat where our lone,
fretting diver, a buff, insistent type, asks to borrow her face mask and her
buddy and finally makes his dive. But, he's not counted. This oversight
explains how Daniel and Susan are considered returned while they're still on
The couple finally surfaces to find the dive boat not where they expected it
to be. After some discussion about where, exactly they are, and whether they
should try swimming to one the boats they see at some distance, their
drift in the current removes that choice.
They argue about faults, about what they can or should do, about when they'll
be noticed missing and rescued, about their marriage, their love for each
other, their tensions. Time goes on. They float, stranded. And, suddenly,
they spot their first shark. As the day wears on, more appear, surrounding
them, playing with them, regarding them as potential lunch.
Daniel pulls his knife out of its scabbard and holds it in readiness. Susan
develops a sickness. When she gets over it Daniel is stung by jelly fish.
But the overriding feeling as night approaches is sheer, sustained panic at
their situation. And, we are there with them. Cold, frightened, weak,
tossed around like so much flotsam, miles from shore.
With night we hope for respite, but the sharks don't sleep.
The degree to which this film forces you to identify and empathize has much
to do with the natural performances by two unknown actors and the clarity of
the narrative flow, which has much to do with a very well thought out
exploration of the slow adaptation to abandonment and distress.
As you become mesmerized by its developments, you might like to consider that
the actors spent over 120 hours in the water and that there was no digital
image making involved. A few people out to sea, immersed amidst killer
animals, made a movie that pumps with authenticity and creative
storytelling. If it can be faulted it's on the difficulty of sustaining the
two-people in one situation simplicity of it to feature length, even at 79
The filmmaker calls it a cautionary tale. Yes. If you dive off a boat, make
certain not only that you're counted, but that your unique individuality is
noted by the crew, even if you have to act bizarre in order to make your
presence register. (See if you get left behind if you're really bizarre).
~~ Jules Brenner,
(Certified L.A. County dive instructor)