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Movie Review

Susan and Daniel think a quick scuba vacation is just the ticket for their workaholic lives. The time together would also help ease some tension that has crept into their marriage. They soon find themselves at a cozy Caribbean retreat, boarding a diving excursion boat. Because Daniel doesn’t want to dive with the crowd, he and Susan head off on their own. Bad idea. Due to a convoluted set of circumstances, the dive master messes up the head count, and the boat’s skipper, assuming everyone is back aboard, leaves the scene.

Upon surfacing and gauging the situation, the couple at first thinks the skipper will realize his mistake and come back for them. After all, the boat is missing two scuba tanks, and Susan’s gear bag still rests on the deck. But as the hours go by, they start to wonder. Their fear mounts as the sun begins to set—prime feeding time for sharks.

What follows is a tense nail-biter as Daniel and Susan deal with fear and anger—at each other, at the boat captain, at nature itself.


Positive Elements

Despite the tension present in their relationship, Daniel and Susan love each other and take turns comforting each other as they find themselves in peril.

Spiritual Content

A scuba diver, upon receiving a big favor, says, “There’s a place in heaven for you.” Susan and Daniel briefly pray the “Our Father” when their situation becomes dire.

Sexual Content

Susan lies naked on a bed with her breasts exposed. As Daniel climbs in, pulling back the sheet in the process, we get a brief shot of the rest of her, too. They kiss and share a bit of playful banter about having sex before the scene shifts. Elsewhere, while preparing to go in the water, Susan leaves the front of her wet suit unzipped, exposing quite a bit of cleavage. We see a few shots of women in bikinis.

Violent Content

Daniel and Susan are stung repeatedly by jellyfish. When Susan is first bumped by a curious shark, Daniel pulls out his diving knife, preparing to defend himself and his wife. Daniel is briefly pulled underwater by a shark, and then he’s surrounded by a cloud of blood in the water. Susan looks at his leg, which reveals a gaping wound in the calf. A shark on a fishing pier has its fin cut off and then its gut sliced open, spilling innards onto the deck.

[Spoiler Warning] Giving away a little as possible, it's imperative for me to mention that moviegoers witness death onscreen, which comes in the form of hypothermia and suicide. We see a body tugged at by sharks and then pulled under.

Crude or Profane Language

About 20 uses of the f-word, as well as a handful of s-words and milder profanities. God's and Jesus’ names are abused more than 40 times. (Several times God's name is combined with "d--n").

Drug and Alcohol Content

People drink martinis at a party.

Other Negative Elements

Susan vomits after ingesting salt water. She and Daniel both joke about peeing in their wet suits.


Open Water taps into everyone’s primal fear of being at the mercy of creatures whose only instinct is to kill and eat, as well as being completely at the mercy of nature’s whims. The hand-held camera work and the use of real sharks make this a whale of a man-against-nature thriller. Seeing Susan bobbing on her back as a very large gray shape moves beneath her is sure to make every hair on your head tingle.

This film, set in the Caribbean, is based loosely on a real incident off Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. That distinction leads me to voice a minor quibble with this story: In more than 25 years of scuba diving, I have never dived out of sight of land and almost always within a mile of the beach. Otherwise, the water is too deep for recreational diving. The dive master in this movie tells them their max depth will be about 60 feet, pretty silly considering that they are at least 12 miles offshore, which is how far they would have to be to lose sight of land. That would make sense if they were diving near the Great Barrier Reef, which in places is 40 or so miles offshore. But in the Caribbean it’s just implausible.

But, as I said, that’s a quibble. The larger problem with this movie is the director’s deliberate use of nudity, which he admitted was gratuitous. Blanchard Ryan, who plays Susan, said, “Nudity is never ‘necessary.’ Never. They put it in because guys like to see naked girls or whatever. I don’t think there’s ever ‘I did it for artistic reasons.’” Still, Ryan didn't object to doing the scene, describing it as “an interesting jolt.”

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