Imagine Jaws without the interesting storyline, engaging characters, memorable dialogue, thrills, suspense, and entertainment and you’d have a pretty good idea of what awaits you with John Stockwell’s Dark Tide. What these filmmakers did was basically take all of those elements and found their polar opposites to put together a film that is one of the most tedious movie-going experiences of recent memory.
The film starts off by introducing us to Kate (Halle Berry), an expert on sharks who also swims with them, her husband Jeff (Olivier Martinez), and the rest of their crew. They are in the middle of making a shark documentary when things go terribly wrong. The sharks viciously attack the crew while they are getting underwater footage, leaving at least one crewmember dead.
A year goes by and Kate is struggling to pay her bills by giving tours to Seal Island, an island covered in, you guessed it, baby seals, though there are also sharks around. One day, her husband, whom she hasn’t seen for quite awhile, shows up to try and convince her to meet with a man about a job offer. After some initial reluctance, she agrees. The man, Brady (Ralph Brown), wants to hire her to take him and his son, Luke (Luke Tyler), out to sea to swim with sharks outside of the cage, something that only she has done. She has several objections, but the 100,000 Euros he’s offering ends up being too much for her to pass up.
This is another film that I have to question as to why it was even made. There’s barely any story here to begin with, and that certainly doesn’t help a film that runs nearly two hours. The plot never begins to develop beyond trying to swim with sharks, turning this into a really long sit. So flimsy is the plot that you could go off and take a good 10-20 minute break at any time during the film, come back and find that still nothing has happened that affects the story in anyway.
Then there’s the big problem of the one-dimensional characters. It really tells you something about their effectiveness when you find yourself rooting for the sharks. Like the plot, they never develop either, and on top of that, they’re all dumber than rocks. Kate, although desperate for money, agrees all too easily to go on this little trip, apparently forgetting the incident at the beginning of the film, nor does she bother mentioning it to Brady and his son. Speaking of the opening sequence, it’s clear that none of the diving crew knew what they were doing. Last I checked, taunting sharks by smacking them on the head was a bad idea, a really bad idea, so why are they surprised when the sharks attack?
The idiocy of the characters continues right up through the anticlimactic final diving sequence. Kate finally decides to take Brady to a place where he can dive with big sharks, and despite obvious signs of a storm that will start any second, she proceeds with the dive, another sign of the amateurish rank of the crew, except even amateurs would probably have been able to recognize an obvious storm like this one.
Big surprise, it starts storming like crazy right after they start the dive, which leads to yet another problem for the film. With it being nighttime during this sequence, it becomes almost impossible to tell what’s going on what with water splashing around everywhere and several people in scuba gear. One character even pops up out of nowhere after it’s assumed he drowned or was dragged away by the storm. It reminded me of another awful film from a few years ago called “Whiteout” that likewise featured action scenes where it was almost impossible to tell what was happening, except in that case, it was lots and lots of snow blocking our view as well as characters covered in parkas.
What’s amazing is that it took two people, Ronnie Christensen and Amy Sorlie, to write this screenplay. Story credit goes to Sorlie, but that’s rather hard to fathom seeing as how there’s not really any story here.
Director John Stockwell has no notable films in his filmography, a streak he continues with Dark Tide. It’ll have to remain a mystery as to why he chose this project, the same of which could be said for Academy Award winner Halle Berry. Surely she had something better to do than sign on to an obvious mess of a film, though standing around on the beach and a boat and doing a bit of swimming, while not doing much in the way of work, all while collecting what was probably a decent paycheck isn’t exactly the worst way to spend one’s time. Come to think of it, that was probably everyone’s excuse.
With its one-dimensional characters and lack of an engaging plot, Dark Tide will test the patience of even the most patient moviegoer.