If James Cameron managed to tempt us back in the water, German director Maximilian Erlenwein is determined to reverse that decision. His new film The Dive is a survival thriller that takes the high-pressure situation of being stuck under a rock (127 Hours-style) and adds even more pressure, literally, by placing the action at the bottom of the sea.
When sisters Drew (Sophie Lowe) and May (Louisa Krause) set out on their annual diving trip, curling around cliffs in their rental car, there’s some fraught conversation, the clipped expression of unspoken pain; but more pain lies ahead, and beneath, for both of them. After they’ve plunged into the sea, and swum through a maze of trenches, a landslide bombs the water above them, trapping May under a boulder, leaving the less confident Drew to help her escape.
Cleverly subverts adrenaline-fuelled, frenetic horror tactics, as its characters must slow their breath and relax to survive.
Limited by the oxygen in their tanks, the film cleverly subverts adrenaline-fuelled, frenetic horror tactics, as its characters must slow their breath and relax to survive. Combined with Frank Griebe’s (Cloud Atlas, Run Lola Run) smart, carefully choreographed cinematography, which finds waves of terror and hope in vast darkness and shards of torch light, an elegantly constructed tension emerges in this underwater endurance puzzle.
The Dive does somewhat run out of narrative puff eventually, the lean story being padded out via jarring flashbacks of vague trauma, with lazy dialogue (“Don’t feel guilty” / “I’m not giving up”) stealing from the eerie silence and melodramatic, swelling strings cheapening any glimmer of catharsis. A more confident film, one that’s contained, isolated and terrifying, gets drowned out.