STARRING: Joel Hogan, Josh Potthof, Megan Peta Hill.
WRITTEN BY: Gerald Rascionato
DIRECTED BY: Gerald Rascionato
It was the 2008 Adam McKay comedy film Step Brothers that said it best when “that curly-headed fuck” Dale (John C Reilly) turned in exasperated disbelief to his dad, who had just switched off the TV, and said: “Dad, what are you doing? It’s Shark Week!”
Whether it’s about a drunkard sailing out to sea on a boat that’s too small, or tourists floating in the ocean with an ominous angular fin slicing through the waves; who doesn’t love a good shark story when it’s done well?
Greg McLean could quite easily be considered Australia’s leading virtuoso of suspenseful survival thrillers, having masterminded both Wolf Creek films and the under-appreciated Rogue. It’s no wonder that a country inhabited by some of the most deadly species known to man would produce such quality films where nature turns against civilisation. Despite clocking in at a compact 80 minutes( even if you run right to the end of the credits), Gerald Rascionato’s Cage Dive packs in a considerable amount of substance, taking a cue from his fellow countryman.
Dubbed Open Water 3 in the US and parts of Europe for marketing purposes, this tight little thriller has more character than either Open Water movie and lumping it in with them is doing Cage Dive a disservice. The cast consists primarily of three friends, brothers Jeff (Joel Hogan) and Josh (Josh Potthoff) and girlfriend Megan (Megan Peta Hill) whose trip to Australia to cage dive with sharks goes horribly wrong when their boat is struck by a tidal wave, stranding the trio in shark infested waters.
It’s not all plain sailing for Cage Dive. There is plenty to criticise if you scratch the surface: attempts to make the dialogue flow naturally have the opposite effect and conversations often feel as contrived as the found-footage handy-cam technique used to tell the story. The episodic construction gives the impression of several ‘lost at sea’ vignettes as opposed to a solid feature length movie. The biggest problem that the film has it that it spends almost half of its runtime establishing the characters. It is so slow to kick off that barely a toe has been dipped into the blue by the time we pass the 30 minute mark. By then, you have already spent so long with these pretty mundane thrill seekers that you begin to dislike all of them. When bad things happen to them (and plenty of bad things happen to them), it’s not quite as tragic as it otherwise could have been if you cared at all about the consequences of their actions.
The tension bubbling under the surface doesn’t come from a relieved fart escaping a wetsuit, but almost as impactful is the complicated love triangle. It is revealed early on that Megan is cheating on Jeff with Joel, leading to some tricky situations when help is at hand. Megan desperately clings to both brothers, not wanting them to separate when it may be best for one to seek rescue, with the tension mounting from what the viewer knows but poor ol’ lovesick Jeff is in the dark about. Each performance is more than satisfactory for a film of this calibre; this is a 15 rated low-budget b-movie and make no mistake. It follows all the conventions that a survival thriller should, but still packs in a few surprising moments to keep you engaged. Sadly, these are far too late into the film.
If we gave half stars, or ratings out of 10 at Set The Tape, Cage Dive would be sitting smack bang in the middle. It was never a chore to sit through once the sharks were on screen. However, by the time that happens, many will have switched off already. As noble as it is to craft a story that has themes around relationship strife, the awesome power of nature fighting back against its destruction at the hands of mankind, and humanity’s growing obsession with documenting every waking moment of their lives, it feels unfair to point this out, but… nobody watching cares all that much. Cage Dive is a shark movie. The audience will come to this wanting to see sharks. And if giant teeth ripping through flesh are nowhere to be seen within the first ten minutes, let alone the first half hour, then something has gone drastically wrong.
Lionsgate Home Entertainment UK presents Cage Dive on DVD & Digital on 9th October 2017. Will you be watching? Let us know in the comments section.