It opens in limited theatrical release today; reposting my review...
Well… it’s not as terrible as I expected it to be?
How’s that as an opener? :)
Or maybe it’s just a case of lowered expectations on my part that were indeed met.
You know the story… location: beautiful coastal South Africa where eels, dolphins, sharks and other ocean life are in abundance; tour giver and professional shark diver played by Halle Berry witnesses the death of a fellow shark diver and close friend, at the hands of a shark, which does a number on her psychologically, sending her into a yearlong sabbatical from the work… as well as from her estranged marriage to a husband played by Olivier Martinez.
A year later, business is dead, she’s in debt, and she gets an offer she can’t quite refuse from a wealthy mysterious customer who also happens to be a thrill-seeker (his last expedition saw him climb Mount Everest where he lost a good friend to the elements – a similar experience his character has with Halle’s).
The customer wants to swim with the fishes – or I should say the sharks – despite Halle’s warnings that he could instead end up sleeping with the fishes, given how treacherous and unpredictable the experience can be. But that doesn’t deter him; he’s a thrill-seeker; as he says, he likes to have his courage tested, and he’s also very persuasive – 100,000 Euros persuasive. And she needs to money, so, eventually, she agrees (with some manipulation of the situation from her estranged hubby).
Oh and the rich guy brought his troubled teen son along for the ride – a teen son who despises him.
So here we go… the stage is set; the narrative plays out aboard a boat called the Volante, as shark-biting action takes a back seat to family dramatics, as husband and wife (Halle and Olivier) grapple with what’s left of their marriage (disagreements that lead to arguments as past events are regurgitated), and father and son wrestle with their own troubled relationship (or lack thereof).
Where’s all the frigging Jaws-like tension and action? There’s actually very little of it – not until the last 15 minutes or so, when more people die, but you’re left wondering why.
Much of the film is filled with, as already noted, relationship drama (husband/wife, father/son), and, in the end, I can’t say that anything is resolved, or anyone experiences some form of redemption or catharsis; unless the deaths at the end were somehow meant to be a representation of that; but, again, the deaths randomly happen (and brutally so, compared to the rest of the PG13 film), and therefore were actually somewhat of a shock, but not necessarily in a good way.
It also doesn't help that those sequences are just not very well shot, so you never really feel the tension that I think the filmmakers were going for there.
In the end, I just didn’t care very much (about any of the characters, nor the story) to feel much of anything for the film. It was just kind of blah; Dull.
The coastal South African location was maybe the most thrilling thing about; it certainly helped contribute to the creation of some beautiful camera images – the waters (both above and under), the ocean life, the sun and breeze. I wanted to be there physically; but there’s very little else to hold your attention, and that’s unfortunate for Halle more-so than any of the other actors in this.
She’s the star; an actress who still clearly has appeal (and I don’t just mean physically; she’s after all still getting work); however, she’s also seen a string of underperformers in recent years, and her career could really use a jolt. The headlines are far more interested in her personal life as she and the father of her child duke it out in the courts (interesting correlation to what’s happening with her character in the film; also interesting when you consider that she ended up dating the actor who plays her husband in the film).
She could use some new headlines in which her professional career as an actress dominate; I'm really looking forward to Cloud Atlas.
So, it’s actually difficult to review a film like this – one that doesn’t elicit a strong reaction from you in either direction, whether positive or negative; it’s just lifeless, and you just stop caring; the worst thing that can happen to a movie – when its audience doesn’t care.
But as you’re watching it, you can see that there very well could’ve been a solid thriller in there somewhere – maybe in a different writer/director’s hands. The initial setup is good enough; but the filmmaking (writing, acting, direction, editing) just doesn't deliver.
The film seems all-too content with having Halle Berry as its star, that there doesn’t seem to have been much effort put into developing a strong narrative with interesting 3-dimensional characters. You get that the filmmakers were going for a character-driven thriller; but the relationship drama between the pairs just doesn’t hold. It’s monotonous, and gets rather boring very quickly, as you start fishing (pun intended) for other aspects of the film to sink your teeth into (I’m on a roll :)); and all that really remains is the shark action.
But as I already noted, there’s actually very little of that.
So what’s left?
Well, lots of Halle Berry in a tiny bikini :)