Into the Blue (UK - DVD R2)
Scott Davis reviews this underwater thriller with Paul Walker & Jessica Alba
I'm sure most of you out there with a pulse will have seen the trailer for this film and said to yourself ‘same old, same old’ and gone into a bit of denial. In fact you may have been fidgeting fiercely in your seat until the sight of Paul Walker and Jessica Alba in nothing more than a pair of shorts and bikini swimming majestically in the blue ocean made you sit up instantly and become transfixed at what was happening for those few seconds on screen. If so then the marketers of the movie have got you hook, line and sinker, for the sight of Ms. Alba and Mr. Walker perfectly proportioned like action figures does nothing but mask the fact that Into the Blue is one of the worst films of the year.
The sexy pair star as Jared and Sam, a couple on the Bahamas who aside from their day to day routines around on the island, delve deep into the heart of the North Atlantic scouring its floor for hidden treasure, searching for that one elusive loot that could net them a tidy fortune. Later joined by visiting friend Bryce (Scott Caan) and his new girl Amanda (Ashley Scott,) the quartet find a plane nestling at the bottom of the ocean, loaded to the brim with drugs, which they later discover belong to a vicious drug lord who is intent on getting it back, by whatever mean necessary.
Into The Blue is the kind of generic film that seems to come off a conveyor belt in Hollywood these days with the age old saying ‘if it ain’t broke’ printed in huge letters on the front. And it’s stuffed full of the usual formula and preposterous plotting that so many Hollywood thrillers concur to these days, falling every cliché in the book, and if it does have a surprising element to it, it’s that it looks like more an extended Gap advert than anything with any hint of intelligence or thrills.
Director Stockwell, who brought us surfing movie Blue Crush and Kirsten Dunst starrer Crazy/Beautiful, again shows hints of flair, but for the most part his direction falls flat. He seems more interested in making everything look stylish and cool than attempting to make the film appealing or getting some decent performances out of his leads, hoping that their prancing around looking gorgeous in the sun will see the film through. It doesn’t. The lacklustre script from writer Matt Johnson, who also wrote the awful Torque, doesn't help matters. Throughout it's horribly predictable and dull, full of terrible dialogue and spineless characters, with no real incident occurring until the last twenty minutes, by which time it’s far to late to make any impression.
Now for some of you this looked like a perfect no-brainer film, the sort of film you can sit in front of and let your mind wonder, especially when you have the lovely Ms. Alba and Mr. Walker in very little throughout. That maybe true for some of you, but let's face it; neither of them can act very well, both lacking charisma and charm, and with the film's very long running time, their sex appeal only gets them so far, and by the end they have become tiresome and annoying. The same goes for Scott Caan and Ashley Scott, who both look striking enough, but the less said about their acting abilities the better. And where would a thriller be without its over-the-top villain, here provided for us here by Josh Brolin, who unlike the rest of the cast, at least shows some acting ability. There are glimpses of a menacing villain here, but too often he is forced to revert to the clichéd pantomimic elements that most villains in these thrillers end up becoming.
The films one saving grace is that it's beautiful to look at. Directors of Photography Shane Hurlbut and Peter Zuccarini perfectly capture the sumptuous sights and sounds of the Bahamas, with its crystal clear oceans, filled with sharks and exotic fish, transporting us under the sea with the divers as if we were there foraging with them. Also, it's surrounding shores overflowing with green grass and tall palm trees blowing majestically in the wind, bringing the tropical paradise to life in an amazing way.
Presented in 2.35 anamorphic widescreen, the boys and girls over at MGM and Sony have pulled out all the stops to preserve one of Into the Blue’s redeeming features: it’s look. As I’ve already mentioned, the superb photography from the film’s two DPs is fantastic, perfectly capturing the sights and sounds of the tropical paradise. And when the film moves underwater, it’s just as brilliant. Everything from the swimming of fish and sharks, to the rainbow-like effect of coral reefs beneath the surface are gloriously transfer in mint condition on the DVD. Colours are strong and bold, with no disfiguration or grain, and the picture never suffers any hint of bleeding or alteration. There is the odd piece of edge enhancement during the underwater scenes, but these are minimal and hardly noticeable.
Sony and MGM have acquitted themselves brilliantly with the audio track too, presented in 5.1 Dolby Digital surround. All five channels are given an excellent workout, perfectly capturing the crashing waves of the North Atlantic, the sound of speedboats racing across the ocean, the birds flying over head and the reggae sound on the shore, as well as the calm nature underwater. It’s a great transfer, and gives the technical side of the DVD a great stamp of quality. Pity the movie doesn’t follow suit.
First up is the commentary from director John Stockwell. Now, I’m not the biggest fan of commentaries at the best of times, but I found this one quite enjoyable throughout. Stockwell gives a comprehensive commentary, and does give some nice anecdotes particularly praising the underwater camera team, as well as talking about how much he enjoyed working with the cast and crew. It would have been interesting to hear another person’s perspective here, but Stockwell does just enough to keep your interest.
Ten deleted scenes follow closely, all of which last for around a minute in length, and hint more at the relationships between the four main characters, as well as Jared and Sam’s dealings with Bates. But all are contain the same stale dialogue, and sadly add nothing new or interesting to the finished film.
Next up on the disc is the usual making-of featurette. This one is your usual mix of behind the scenes tomfoolery and stories, interviews with the cast and crew and b-roll footage. Like the director’s commentary, this is pretty comprehensive and mildly enjoyable, even if it does become one of those features where everyone says how wonderful everyone was. But, I suppose you get that with most featurettes, and this one is worth a quick peek.
Screen tests are also included on the disc, focusing on Scott Caan and Tyson Beckford who plays a gangster-type in the movie. I’ve always found the acting process fascinating, and I do admire actors for the amount of work they put in and the strain it takes for them to just be considered, and these little audition snippets are well worth watching just to watch the art of acting, even if both men’s abilities are limited.
While technically excellent, Into the Blue fails on the film front, providing us with yet another by the numbers Hollywood thriller, that tries to gloss over its shortcomings with beautiful scenery and perfect looking people. In the hands of another director and writer, this could have made for a passable night at the movies. Instead, it’s a pain staking two hours or so, woefully acted and boring throughout. But hey, if nothing else, the cover art is very nice indeed.
Review by Scott Davis
Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over
Release Date: 27th February 2006
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English, Dolby Digital 5.1 Italian, Dolby Digital 5.1 Spanish
Subtitles: English, Italian, Spanish, Swedish, Finnish, Norwegian, Danish
Extras: Director's commentary, Making-Of, Deleted Scenes, Screen Tests
Easter Egg: No
Director: John Stockwell
Cast: Paul Walker, Jessica Alba, Scott Caan, Ashley Scott, Josh Brolin, James Frain, Tyson Beckford
Length: 106 minutes