Dark Tide (2012)
(12A) Running time: 116 minutes
Director: John Stockwell
Writers: Ronnie Christensen, Amy Sorlie
Starring: Halle Berry, Olivier Martinez, Ralph Brown
Reviewed by: Matt Wavish, official HCF critic
I approached Dark Tide with caution, I absolutely love shark flicks, but I was a little hesitant as to whether I would get any enjoyment out of this one. The very first teaser trailer was dull, and early reports were that the film was terrible. However, a few clips were then released, one of which made me take notice as it featured a real Great White Shark swimming past the main boat of the film. Interesting I thought, and then a new full length trailer came out which actually looked very good indeed. Suddenly I was ever so slightly looking forward to this, and I can feel you waiting for me to say “but”, so let me start the next paragraph as you would expect. The film looked good from the trailer; I was a little excited and was actually hoping my lack of interest in the film may cause it to turn out pretty decent…
But, something went seriously and hideously wrong here, really wrong. I expected a lot more from director John Stockwell, he has proved in the past he can masterfully handle a water based thriller with terrific underwater shots with his film, Into the Blue. He has also proved he can handle well crafted horror in his film Paradise Lost, so in essence Dark Tide should have brought us the best of both. It doesn’t, and what we end up with is a film of two halves: one half filled with magnificent underwater shots of sharks, the other half filled with some of the worst acting and script writing you will witness all year. Clearly what happened here was all efforts went into the shots of the sharks themselves, and let me tell you that there is stuff in here which is absolutely stunning, even unbelievable at times. However, all that is ruined by a pathetic script and, honestly, the most dire acting I have seen for quite some time. Considering the cast, including Halle Berry, a former bloody Oscar winner, the acting should not have been an issue at all, but by God it is. Painful is what it is, and that with the added bonus of a tone deaf score leads the non shark scenes into painfully boring territory. You will be screaming out loud for the next shark to appear on screen, and with the films running time at nearly two hours, you will be lucky if you do not nod off and miss the next shark!
Halle Berry plays Kate Mathieson, a shark expert who enjoys swimming with the great creatures in their natural habitat. The film opens with a dull as hell scene of a great white shark swimming through the water, and Berry’s voiceover warning of getting too involved with the things you love. It is painful, and my suggestion is to skip it. However, a thrilling, nail biting tense scene awaits as Berry and her crew go on a dive with not one, but two Great Whites. This is where the film is amazing, the shots of the sharks are terrific, all real shots clearly taken by the crew here and not some copy from a nature programme. We even see the characters actually swimming and touching these magnificent creatures, and some of it really does defy belief. Clearly, if you know what you are doing, you CAN swim with sharks outside of a cage and these scenes are truly wonderful to watch, breathtaking in fact! As with these types of films, you know something has to go wrong, and the eventual shark attack is fast, brutal and real and handled expertly by Stockwell’s tight direction. This opening is truly amazing, and it is all downhill from here, fast!
Upset by the attack and death of her friend, Kate struggles to get back in the water and with her shark tours being her source of income, she is struggling with her finances. Blah blah blah! You won’t care, and I doubt you will even pay much attention to what is being discussed and this absolute borefest goes on for a good hour before we actually get back to any shark action. If you can stick with it, Kate is enticed to go back in the water with an offer of a lot of money from a client who is desperate to swim in open water with Great Whites. Cue new characters who act worse than the ones we have already met. The acting is so bad, so meaningless it is genuinely embarrassing to watch. The film only picks up again when we get back in the water swimming with sharks, and once again those truly astonishing shots of people swimming with sharks returns. However, there is zero menace and tension, you know something is going to go wrong, but you are past caring. The lull in excitement will have quite literally drained all your energy and you will feel as flat as a pancake. I found it extremely difficult to get back into the thrill of this film, and I really struggled with the horrendous acting, painfully dumb dialogue and almost nonexistent score.
The final shark scenes do deliver, yet you almost begin to laugh as Kate has a hissy fit over the deal made for this rich guy actually being allowed out of his cage. She panics and thinks of the accident from earlier in the film, and in a long, extended moment of madness, Berry tries desperately to act pissed off. She decides to take the expedition to dangerous waters, and wouldn’t you know it, a storm is brewing! Yes, some of these later scenes are thrilling and terrific to watch, yes the sharks are breathtaking and the fact they are all real is credit to the makers. The cinematography is without question some of the best you will ever see in a shark flick, and the shark scenes themselves are up there with the brilliance of Open Water and The Reef for realism, but the film is just so incredibly flat, so painfully dull that these scenes cannot save it. This is a real shame because clearly a huge amount of effort has gone into creating some of the finest underwater shark scenes ever filmed. It is upsetting to say this, but Dark Tide is a terrible waste of some brilliant underwater filming, a terrible waste of a half decent cast, and a terrible waste of your time. My suggestion: skip all the story bits and just watch the shark scenes, and for those scenes alone I will give the film three stars, as for the rest, I can’t offer any stars, just complaints.