Scott Hardie: “It ruled.”
Please save this review until after you have seen the movie; it is best enjoyed with a minimum of spoilers.
What this film gets right is the realism of this situation. As the couple progresses from concerned mutual support to outraged bickering to grim resolve, their words in the water ring true; the only moment when the dialogue strains for believability is the quarrel over the laptop, but authentic banality is a lot harder to pull off than it would seem. The shark behavior also seems exactly right; they're predators but not as aggressive as Hollywood usually portrays. Even the material on the boat seems plausible, which is important because the movie can't rest on the "true story" credit alone. For my money, the best sequence was the methodical unfolding of the accident on the boat: Anyone familiar with the story knows that the couple is doomed to be left behind, yet the scenes are so realistic as to seem that at any moment the crew will remember the couple and wait for them; as in the best productions of "Romeo and Juliet," there's a very palpable feeling of hope that the characters will manage to escape what we know deep down is their fate.
What the movie doesn't do right is have the ambition to go beyond the material. It has opportunity to excel in two areas, as a high-tension, white-knuckle thriller with an original premise, and as a philosophical exploration of what it truly means to be cut off from civiliation and even land itself. It doesn't go on long enough to be that profound; the rescue mission begins just when the characters are primed to break through to new levels of awareness and take the movie with them. Fucking "Cast Away" with Tom Hanks did a better job of exploring this theme. Going for the thrills wouldn't have been as rewarding as getting cerebral, but at least it would have been rewarding in its own way; the trade-off with portraying sharks realistically is that the characters do little for sixty minutes except shoot worried glances at circling shark fins. There's an all-too-brief moment when Susan wakes up and Daniel is missing and the movie seems truly frightening, but it doesn't seem willing to torture its pitiable characters enough to elicit real scares.
I'd like to single out the trailer for criticism, for spoiling virtually every interesting element of the film. When the characters panic in the darkness, it's a creepy moment in the trailer that hints at even scarier material in the film, but no, that's about as unhinged as the characters get. And I could swear one line in the trailer had Daniel claiming he saw an island in the distance, and I thought at the time that the trailer had spoiled the ending; instead, I watched the whole movie waiting for the damn island to show up and the movie ended in a different way, undermining the low-key final scenes for me because I didn't think they were final. Lion's Gate wisely put everything they had into the marketing for this film and it paid off, but doesn't it stink when a good movie doesn't compare to the great movie being advertised?