'Into the Blue' Review

Warning: this review may contain spoilers, so for those of you film buffs for whom this is important, stop reading now.

Jessica Alba said it best earlier this week when she appeared on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, describing INTO THE BLUE as a “fun popcorn thriller.” And that’s pretty much what it is. It ain’t gonna win any Oscars (with one possible exception, to be mentioned below), but I’m sure it’ll get some heavy rotation on the Spike channel or VH1’s “Movies That Rock.”

But I didn’t go to see it for the acting. Or the intricate (NOT!) plot, which can be summarized thusly: Paul Walker’s character is a recently fired divemaster, and his character’s girlfriend, played by Jessica Alba, plays a marine biologist who works at the Atlantis resort. Scott Caan plays Walker’s friend who comes to visit with a girlfriend (Amanda Scott) he acquired 48 hours before. They find a sunken treasure, as well as a sunken airplane loaded with cocaine. Pretty soon, they’re up against some brutal drug smugglers who want to know where their plane is, and one can pretty much guess the rest.

But like I said, that’s all immaterial.

I went to see it for the diving scenes, and in that department, I was quite pleasantly surprised. Yeah, I had read the articles about the filming of the movie at Stuart Cove in the Bahamas in PADI Sport Diver and Scuba Diver magazines. About how nearly all of the cast and crew had gotten themselves scuba-certified during the filming, About how actor Scott Caan had increased his freediving max from 30 feet to 100 feet. About the stunt divers, among them freediver Meghan Heaney-Grier. About how Stuart Cove had used its experience with sharks to help create some fun scenes of sharks chowing down on a baddie. I had watched both versions of the movie trailer multiple times.

But all of that just gave the merest hint of what was actually in the movie itself.

I’d say at least one-half of the film’s scenes were shot underwater or on the water. If there’s any small chance for an Oscar for this movie, it might be for the cinematography. It showed the beauty of the ocean in all its forms, with great use of light. Never once did I see any extra bubbles from the numerous support and safety divers whom I’m sure were present. I literally could not tell when the stars themselves were replaced by their stunt doubles.

For the scuba diving scenes, I can understand why PADI is doing some cross-marketing with this movie. There are instances of the correct form of buddy breathing as well as of divers being chided by the authorities for not flying a dive flag from their boat. There are also scenes of the main characters diving with the full-face-mask underwater communications systems.

For those of you spearos out there, there are scenes of the baddies using band-type spearguns with funky exploding shotgun-shell tips. The guns themselves are not the James Bond pneumatic-type, they’re real rubber band spearguns that are shown being loaded the correct way. And Paul Walker’s character at one point appears to use a Hawaiian sling and one of those funky shotgun shell-tipped spears to neutralize one baddie.

The thing about the scuba scenes, though, was that they felt somewhat utilitarian, as if they were used to put forward the idea of underwater work, of using the scuba rigs as a means to an end (salvage, photography, combat).

The freediving scenes, however – of which there were several, not counting the end credits – put forward the idea of pleasure, of fun, of acrobatic beauty, of being truly one with the ocean. Granted, they didn’t show anybody breathing up before a dive, and there was even a line by one of the characters talking about a “three-minute breath hold.”

Another pro-freediving motif in the movie was that during a couple key underwater scenes, the actors wearing long fins appeared to be moving faster in the water than those in short fins, a fact that freedivers shouldn’t find surprising. While Scott Caan’s character appeared to use scuba fins during most of his dive scenes, Walker and Alba were always shown diving in long fins – whether breath-hold or scuba.

The best part of it all was the entire end credits, which showed the main characters cavorting underwater in masks, fins and snorkels. It made me wish I could just brush the credits aside just to watch them freedive.

And the movie’s Web site http://www.sonypictures.com/homevideo/ has short video clips of the actors freediving, which is kinda cool.

My final thought for this movie is a fervent hope that the producers include lots and lots and LOTS of extra footage and “making of” documentaries with the DVD release on all the underwater aspects of the film, with one segment solely dedicated to freediving. And if “Ocean Men” were to be included as an extra, I’d be in seventh heaven.

So will I see this movie on the big screen again? Sure, just to be able to immerse myself in suspended disbelief while watching some of the best underwater filmmaking I’ve ever seen.