Following sisters and adrenaline junkies, Drew and May, The Dive sees these thrill-seeking siblings embark on one of their annual aquatic adventures. However, while diving in a remote, cliff-side location, they are suddenly caught amidst a deadly rockslide. With a large rock trapping May on the ocean floor, it’s up to Drew to try and free her. But with limited oxygen supplies and no-one around to help, there’s only so much she can do.
While its characters are quickly running out of air, one thing that director Maximilian Erlenwein’s new survival thriller isn’t short on is sources of inspiration; its premise will immediately remind audiences of several other films. It feels like a reverse-engineered version of last year’s Fall, which saw two friends trapped at the top of a TV tower. Otherwise, it’s been described as an underwater twist on Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours. Similarly, it could be likened to shark thriller 47 Meters Down, just without the sharks. And further still, its rescue element is reminiscent of Thirteen Lives, Ron Howard’s dramatisation of the real life Tham Luang cave rescue. The similarities to these titles are undeniable, but The Dive lacks one crucial element that they all have in common: suspense.
On paper, the premise of being trapped underwater and running out of air is absolute nightmare fuel, but The Dive doesn’t succeed in translating this terror onto the screen. It’s lacking a more visually stimulating threat, that the heights of Fall, or the sharks of 47 Meters Down, provide so vividly. When drawn out over a feature-length runtime too, it only becomes more challenging to make this concept cinematically thrilling. Despite this, the film does manage to be slightly more engaging when the action breaks the surface. As Drew desperately tries to find a solution back on land, The Dive does begin to gain momentum, but unfortunately this is mostly short-lived.
Indulging in rather clichéd genre tropes, The Dive insists on attaching unresolved family trauma to its characters. This poor attempt at character development serves only to drag the film down further, as it’s underwritten and completely unnecessary. The actors portraying the sisters, Sophie Lowe and Louisa Krause, admirably attempt to give these moments value, but when they are as misplaced and underdeveloped as they are here, their efforts are hardly worth it. Elsewhere, the pair do serviceable work, delivering believable performances laced with apt panic and exasperation at their situation.
It’s a shame, because with a tighter screenplay and a more dramatic plot, The Dive could have excelled. Its coastal location is captured well, both under and above the surface, with cinematographer Frank Griebe skillfully shooting the underwater peril. He even creates a couple of really striking shots that start to more convincingly convey the severity and scale of the characters’ situation. One in particular showing May’s illuminated mask as the only flash of light in an otherwise pitch-black watery abyss, becomes the film’s visual highlight. These few, fleeting creative flourishes showcase just what could have been if The Dive focused more intently on the terror of its premise, rather than the trauma of its characters.
Yet, even when the film’s plot finally arrives at its more pivotal moments, they are delivered with so little spectacle and provide next to no impact. These underwhelming sequences fail to encourage much in the way of emotional responses, other than mild relief that the plot is at least moving forward in some capacity. However, this gradual paddle towards the end credits remains tethered by the film’s mediocre execution of its central concept. So while The Dive could have made waves, instead it hardly even manages a splash.
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The Dive is a well-shot survival thriller with brief moments of promise, but ultimately fails to make the most of its chilling concept.
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