Open Water (film)

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Open Water
Open Water movie.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Chris Kentis
Produced by Laura Lau
Estelle Lau
Written by Chris Kentis
Starring Blanchard Ryan
Daniel Travis
Music by Graeme Revell
Cinematography Chris Kentis
Laura Lau
Edited by Chris Kentis
Lions Gate Films
Plunge Pictures
Eastgate Pictures
Distributed by Lionsgate
Release dates
  • October 26, 2003 (2003-10-26) (Hamptons)
  • August 6, 2004 (2004-08-06)
Running time
79 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $500,000
Box office $54,667,954

Open Water is a 2003 American psychological horror drama film loosely based on the true story of an American couple, Tom and Eileen Lonergan, who in 1998 went out with a scuba diving group, Outer Edge Dive Company, on the Great Barrier Reef, and were accidentally left behind because the dive-boat crew failed to take an accurate headcount.[1][2] The film was financed by writer/director Chris Kentis and his wife, producer Laura Lau, both avid scuba divers.[3] The film cost $500,000 to make and was bought by Lions Gate Entertainment for $2.5 million after its screening at the Sundance Film Festival. Lions Gate spent a further $8 million on distribution and marketing.[4] The film ultimately grossed $55 million worldwide (including $30 million from the North American box office alone).[5]

Before filming began, the Lonergans' experience was re-created for an episode of ABC's 20/20, and the segment was repeated after the release of Open Water. Clips from the film were also featured on NBC in "Troubled Waters", a Dateline episode (July 7, 2008) with Matt Lauer interviewing two professional divers, Richard Neely and Ally Dalton, who were left adrift at the Great Barrier Reef by a dive boat on May 21, 2008.[6]


Daniel Kintner (Daniel Travis) and Susan Watkins (Blanchard Ryan) are a couple frustrated that their hard-working lives do not allow them to spend much time together. They decide to head out on a scuba-diving vacation to help improve their relationship. On their second day, they join a group scuba dive. A head count is taken, and the passenger total is recorded as 20. Daniel and Susan decide to separate briefly from the group while underwater. Half an hour later, the group returns to the boat. Going by the tally sheet, the total comes to 20, though in reality, it is 18. Daniel and Susan are still underwater and have not yet realized that the others have returned. The boat leaves the site. Not long after, Daniel and Susan return to the surface and look for it. They believe the group will return to recover them in reasonable time.

Stranded at sea, Daniel and Susan battle bouts of hunger and mental exhaustion, and later realize that they have most likely drifted far from the dive site. They also realize that sharks have been circling them below the surface. Soon, jellyfish appear and sting Daniel and Susan, while sharks come in close. Susan receives a small shark bite on the leg, but does not immediately realize it. Daniel goes under and discovers a small fish feeding on the exposed flesh of her bite wound. He does not tell Susan. Later, a shark bites Daniel and the wound begins to bleed profusely. Susan removes her weight belt and uses it to apply pressure to Daniel's wound. He appears to go into shock. The tight-fitting neoprene wet suits are apparently keeping them from fully realizing they have been sustaining small bites. After night falls, sharks return and attack Daniel during a storm, killing him. The next morning, Daniel and Susan's belongings are finally noticed on the boat by a crew member. He remembers the couple and realizes they must have been left at the dive site. A search for the couple has begun.

Susan realizes Daniel is dead and releases him into the water, where sharks attack him in a feeding frenzy. After putting on her mask, she looks beneath the surface and sees several large sharks now circling her. Susan looks around one last time for any sign of coming rescue. Seeing none, she removes her scuba gear and goes underwater to drown before the sharks can attack. In the end, both Daniel and Susan have died. Elsewhere, a fishing crew cut open a newly-caught shark's stomach, finding a diving camera, apparently that of Daniel and Susan. One of the fishermen asks offhandedly to another, "Wonder if it works?"


  • Daniel Travis as Daniel Kintner
  • Blanchard Ryan as Susan Watkins
  • Saul Stein as Seth
  • Michael E. Williamson as Davis
  • Cristina Zenato as Linda
  • John Charles as Junior
  • Steve Lemme as scuba boat tourist (uncredited)


The filmmakers used live sharks, as opposed to the mechanical ones used in Jaws decades ago or the computer-generated fish in Deep Blue Sea. The film strives for authentic shark behavior, shunning the stereotypical exaggerated shark behavior typical of many films. The movie was shot on digital video. As noted above, the real-life events that inspired this story took place in the southern Pacific Ocean, and this film moves the location to the Atlantic Ocean, being filmed in the Bahamas, the United States Virgin Islands, the Grenadines, and Mexico.[7][8]


Open Water was made for a budget recorded by Box Office Mojo as $500,000, grossed $1 million in 47 theaters on its opening weekend and made a lifetime gross of $55 million.[9] Most critics praised the film for intensity and expertly minimalist filmmaking, while it was not well received by the audience. Writing in the Chicago Sun-Times, Roger Ebert praised the film highly: "Rarely, but sometimes, a movie can have an actual physical effect on you. It gets under your defenses and sidesteps the 'it's only a movie' reflex and creates a visceral feeling that might as well be real".[10] In a much less favorable review, A. O. Scott in The New York Times lamented that it "succeeds in mobilizing the audience's dread, but it fails to make us care as much as we should about the fate of its heroes".[11] The film has a 72% "Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes.[12]


Award Category Subject Result
Saturn Awards Best Horror or Thriller Film Nominated
Best Actress Blanchard Ryan Won
Fangoria Chainsaw Awards Best Actress Nominated
Best Wide-Release Film Nominated
Worst Film Nominated
Golden Trailer Awards Best Thriller Won
Best Independent Nominated


  • In 2006, a movie called Open Water 2: Adrift, was released, which however is not a sequel to Open Water, but an independent film.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Brady, Tara (13 September 2004). "Open Water". Retrieved October 1, 2012. 
  2. ^ Hollywood's 'Open Water' film earns rave reviews Archived October 12, 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ Bonin, Liane (2004-08-07). "EW". EW. Retrieved 2013-03-28. 
  4. ^ "Open Water - Box Office Data, Movie News, Cast Information". The Numbers. Retrieved 2010-08-20. 
  5. ^ "Open Water (2004)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2010-08-20. 
  6. ^ "Transcript of ''Troubled Waters''". MSNBC. 2008-07-07. Retrieved 2013-03-28. 
  7. ^ "Open Water (2003)". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 30 May 2012. 
  8. ^ DEBORAH SONTAGPublished: August 01, 2004 (2004-08-01). "Sontag, D. "A Couple Go For a Morning Dive...," ''New York Times'', August 1, 2004". Retrieved 2013-03-28. 
  9. ^ Open Water statistics at
  10. ^ "Ebert, Roger. "Open Water," ''Chicago Sun-Times'', August 6, 2004". 2004-08-06. Retrieved 2013-03-28. 
  11. ^ A. O. SCOTTPublished: August 06, 2004 (2004-08-06). "Scott, A.O. "Hanging With Sharks, at Their Dinner Hour," ''New York Times'', August 6, 2004". Retrieved 2013-03-28. 
  12. ^ "Open Water". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2013-03-28. 

External links[edit]