Let?s just get one thing straight right at the start. This movie is in no way a sequel to the popular, 2003 DV-shot floating couple-versus-sharks thriller. The ?Open Water 2? moniker was applied to the film by its European financiers ? the movie is German-produced, though the screenwriters are a Brit and a Yank and the cast is primarily American ? and it?s stuck nearly everywhere since, avoiding the Open Water connection only in the UK, apparently. Regardless of what it?s called (it was originally scripted under the overkill title Godspeed), it?s an enjoyable, taut little thriller that, to further distinguish it from its pseudo-predecessor, 1) was shot on film ? widescreen, no less ? rather than low-budget video and 2) features about as many sharks as does The Hills Have Eyes.
A group of six ex-high school friends decide to celebrate a birthday by taking a cruise off the Mexican coast in a luxury yacht owned by one of the more successful ones among them. On board are Amy and James, a friendly young married couple toting an infant daughter, motorcycle-riding Zach and his tough girlfriend Lauren, and rich jerk-off Dan, who owns the yacht and has brought along young bimbo girlfriend Michelle (all the characters are well-played by familiar American TV actors like Eric Dane and Susan May Pratt). Amy ? who happens to be an ex-girlfriend of Dan?s ? is using the trip as an opportunity to try to conquer her deathly fear of the water (uh-oh), a phobia she picked up, we learn in flashbacks, when she witnessed her father drown as a child.
Everything goes fine at the start of the trip, with the friends enjoying the sun, water and fun ? they even anchor the boat above a reef and all jump in for a swim, except for Dan and terrified Amy. But when Dan jumps overboard with Amy in his arms, in a dimwitted attempt to ?cure? her fear of the water, he neglects to lower the mechanical diving ladder which would allow them to re-board the boat. And thus the main dilemma of the movie is posed: how to get back on the boat? The sides of the yacht are too high and slippery to climb by hand, nobody in the water has a lifejacket ? except for Amy ? nor are they carrying any communications gear or cell phones, and passing ships are few and far-between. And although warm-feeling at first, the ocean quickly begins to drain their body heat, and everyone but Amy must tread water in order to stay afloat ? think leg cramps and fatigue. But worst of all, Amy has left her baby on board alone, and thinks she can hear her crying.
One of those movies that pares nearly everything in it down to the utmost simplicity, Adrift works well as a ?what would I do?? thriller. Nearly every solution I found myself coming up with while watching the film turned out to be something the screenwriters had the characters try, unsuccessfully, at some point. And in addition to the simple mechanics of grasping the boat railing, tantalizingly out of reach above their heads, the characters naturally begin to turn on each other once they?re in the water for a couple of hours ? old, simmering resentments coming out (Dan and Amy are ex-lovers, remember?) and accusations shouted (mainly at dipshit Dan, who should have known about the ladder).
Characters eventually start to drift away, both psychologically and physically. The film?s one major misstep is a seriously oddball ?what the hell just happened??-type ending that feels out-of-place with the rest of the film. Nevertheless, Adrift is an efficient (only 95 minutes long), decent time-waster that may not be so different from other things you?ve seen before, but it?s entertaining while it lasts. And it?s probably best avoided by anyone still traumatized by Open Water, since after seeing this one there?ll be no chance whatsoever of them ever stepping on a boat. Adrift comes direct to DVD in February from Lionsgate.