While it doesn’t have a lot of thrills, Dark Tide does manage to capture some tension thanks to incredible underwater sequences that show the divers playing with some very large sharks. Unfortunately, the film suffers from a dragging pace and lack of chemistry between its cast.
Directed by John Stockwell (who brought us the underwater thriller Into the Blue) and written by Ronnie Christensen and Amy Sorlie, the film stars Halle Berry, Olivier Martinez, Ralph Brown, Mark Elderkin, Luke Tyler, Thoko Ntshinga, and Sizwe Msutu.
The film opens with “shark whisperer” Kate Mathieson (Berry) shooting a documentary with her husband Jeff (Martinez) off the coast of South Africa. Kate is one of the only shark experts in the world that free dives outside the shark cage so she can get up close and personal with the Great White sharks she studies.
Everything is going great as Kate, Jeff and her spotter hit the water for Kate to swim with a somewhat aggressive shark. Although it was all smiles and jokes on the boat, things go bad in the water leaving the spotter as shark food and Kate no longer wanting to dive.
The film then jumps about a year with Kate and her crew making a slim living renting out her boat for trips to see seals to the tourist who actually want to see sharks. Kate is oblivious to the fact that the bank is getting ready to take her boat (which is in need of repairs) and the fact that her life has pretty much fallen apart.
Jeff re-appears (the couple separated after the death) with an offer that can save their marriage and Kate’s business. Rich businessman Brady (Brown) wants to hire Kate to take him and his son to dive with sharks. Brady doesn’t just want to see sharks or observe them from a shark cage, he wants to dive like Kate does and touch the sharks as they go swimming by.
Naturally, Kate refuses, but Jeff convinces Brady that she will do it. He then puts his charm to work on Kate to get her to change her mind. Jeff’s charms work, and it doesn’t take long for Kate and company to head out to sea for an adventure.
Once on the water, things start to go wrong pretty quick as Brady becomes more and more demanding about what he wants, and Jeff’s motivations become clearer to Kate.
When Kate is swimming with the sharks, Dark Tide manages to create genuine tension. The underwater sequences are filmed in a documentary style that really capitalizes on the deadly grace of the sharks and the danger Kate is taking by entering their world. These sequences make Dark Tide worth taking the time to watch, and keep the audience wanting to see what will happen to the film’s characters.
Unfortunately, the film suffers whenever the characters are above the water and interacting with each other.
The love story between Jeff and Kate isn’t needed, and the lack of chemistry between Berry and Martinez makes the storyline extremely boring. Both actors don’t seem to be trying very hard to develop their characters, and Berry especially fails to do much with Kate – despite her suffering from guilt and being the world’s only “shark whisperer.”
Brown is easy to hate as the spoiled rich man, but he is so annoying that the audience quickly just wishes he could become shark food. His character is meant to create more tension during the voyage, but he just made me want to hit the stop button whenever he would go off in a rant.
Sadly, the Blu-ray doesn’t come with any bonus material to make it worth the purchase price – despite how incredible the underwater sequences look on the format. Given the fact the divers were swimming with real sharks, I wish there could have been more “behind the scene” features on the shooting of the film.
Dark Tide tries to be a tense thriller, but fails to take full advantage of the things that work in the film. It has a talented cast, but they don’t do enough to make the characters matter. Swimming with the sharks amp up the little tension the film manages to capture, but the payoff goes to waste as soon as the characters surface.
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