Running Time: 91 mins
UK Distributor: Vertigo Releasing
WHO’S IN THE DIVE?
Louisa Krause, Sophie Lowe
WHO’S BEHIND THE CAMERA?
Maximilian Erlenwein (director, writer), Joachim Hedén (writer), Jonas Katzenstein and Maximilian Leo (producers), Volker Bertelmann and Raffael Seyfried (composers), Frank Griebe (cinematographer), Philipp Thomas (editor)
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Two sisters (Krause and Lowe) fight for survival during a diving trip gone wrong…
WHAT ARE MY THOUGHTS ON THE DIVE?
Last year’s Fall had a simple survival movie premise: two young women are trapped thousands of feet in the air on top of a tower in the middle of nowhere. That concept alone, not to mention the dizzying ways in which it was filmed, earned the film some decent appraisal from both critics and audiences, to where it even had a mini-resurgence in popularity after its arrival on Netflix (a sequel is now greenlit because of its unexpected streaming success).
Almost exactly one year after its theatrical run, German filmmaker Maximilian Erlenwein presents to his audience The Dive, a movie that is essentially Fall if the gravitational threat was reversed: instead of two young women being high up in the clouds, this time they’re deep below the ocean surface. However, The Dive has more in common with Fall than just its near-identical concept. For instance, both movies do a pretty good job of being exactly what you think they’re going to be – they are disposable and borderline ridiculous B-movie survival flicks, nothing more, nothing less – only with this one, there’s much less drive or intrigue behind it that makes it really worth remembering.
The film begins as sisters Drew (Louisa Krause) and May (Sophie Lowe) drive to a remote, undisclosed location for their annual deep-sea diving trek. From their lack of chemistry and closed-off emotional states, it’s clear that neither sister is particularly close with one another, due to some unresolved family trauma from their childhoods. However, as both of them are fully submerged several feet underwater, a landslide sends numerous rocks falling on top of them, with one trapping Drew’s leg underneath and leaving her unable to swim to the surface. With only minutes of oxygen left in Drew’s tank, it’s now up to May to do whatever she can to save her sister, even if it means risking her own health and safety to do so.
The film that you’re picturing in your head just from reading that plot summary is more or less what The Dive ends up being. Like several other survival movies made before and after it, it follows all the regular beats, establishes all the familiar characterisations and dynamics, touches upon all the psychological consequences, and so on. It is, near beat-for-beat, a prototypical B-movie survival thriller, one that admittedly refuses to do certain stale tropes of this kind of movie (to mention some would spoil a lot of them, including Fall), but relies so much on every other aspect of the formula without adding anything truly fresh or original to the proceedings, that it continuously leaves you in a state of déjà vu since you’re near certain you’ve seen it all before, and most likely have.
However, a movie can still follow the set guidelines of a survival film and still turn out really damn good (one of the best examples of this, in my opinion, is Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity), or at the very least memorable. Sadly, The Dive is neither, for while it’s not awful it is rather forgettable, because the script – co-written by Erlenwein and Joachim Hedén – struggles to establish an emotional connection with these characters, who are pretty much the only people on-screen in this movie, yet are given such vague personalities and backstories that it’s hard to really care about them, even when some pretty horrifying stuff is happening to them.
Actors Louisa Krause and Sophie Lowe are fine here, but there’s only so much that they can do to really get you invested in their characters, or even feel the varying levels of fear and frustration as one bad thing after another happens to them, from dropping oxygen tanks to beating up a car to open the trunk and grab a useful tool. It’s a rule of thumb in any kind of storytelling that if you’re not invested in the story or its characters, then there’s just no use for telling the story at all, and in this case the lack of intrigue with both this heavily formulaic plot and its thinly-sketched lead characters makes this feel a lot less engaging than it should be.
Furthermore, there is a consistent lack of tension throughout, which probably comes from the fact that there are multiple times when characters head back up to the surface and then back down again. It takes away the immediacy of the situation, and breaks it up rather than maintain a thorough level of suspense by remaining in one place the whole time. In Gravity, there aren’t any scenes where Sandra Bullock nips back down to Earth to get some supplies for George Clooney; they’re in space the whole time, so the tension remains solid at all times. It’s the same with Fall, which might not have been an especially great movie but still utilised its survival movie mechanisms well enough, and most importantly stayed in the one terrifying place the whole time.
With The Dive, it can be distracting with how often it undercuts its own tension by repeatedly taking the viewer out of the predicament, and combined with the other fatal flaws in this script it makes the film feel rather dull as a result. Again, it’s not bottom-of-the-barrel bad, for there is some light suspension here and there, but it just isn’t utilised as well as it possibly could have, rendering this a survival flick where you honestly just don’t care all that much.
SO, TO SUM UP…
The Dive has moments of light suspense and some fine performances, but a lack of intrigue for both its central concept and lead characters, as well as a consistently undercut sense of tension, leaves it hanging out to dry.