|Into the Blue|
|Written by Mel Odom|
|Monday, 01 January 2007|
Wannabe treasure-hunter Jared (Paul Walker) makes do with jobs that keep him in the water down in the Bahamas, but his heart longs to be out there chasing in the wake of pirates. His girlfriend Sam (Jessica Alba) loves him and supports him, understanding him better than he understands himself. A recent storm has passed through the area and Jared feels certain that something might have been unearthed because storms above the water also affect the shifting sands of the sea, sometimes uncovering wrecks that have been hidden for hundreds of years. Still, Jared knows he’s not going to get much treasure hunting done with the leaky boat he has.
Their lives change forever when Jared’s lawyer brother Bryce (Scott Caan) shows up with a brand-new girlfriend Amanda (Ashley Scott) whom he met only five hours previously. They get to stay at a mansion house owned by one of Bryce’s clients. In fact, not only do they get access to the mansion, but they also get access to the boat. All of them set off at once, cutting across the ocean on jet skis in wild looping acrobatics that look absolutely fabulous onscreen.
But it’s the diving sequences that really catch the eye. Not only do these young performers look great swimming through the crystal-blue waters, but the marine life and seascape are beautifully highlighted. This one sequence, with the visual capabilities of the Blu-ray, is worth the price of the disc alone.
Video Presentation: High-definition presentation simply does not come any better than what is on this disc. The ocean has always lent itself to photography because of all the light and the colors possible. The widescreen treatment in this movie is simply incredible. You can get so lost in the blue of the ocean and the fish and seascape all around that you forget there are actors and a plot being unveiled in front of you. Several times during the opening sequences I had to remind myself I was watching a story and needed to keep track of who was who and what was going on. The underwater world is just that absorbing. Believe it or not, but the beauty of the sea actually makes you take your eye off bikini-wearing Jessica Alba (or Paul Walker). This is why I bought a high-def monitor.
Audio Presentation: Uncompressed audio is truly the only way to go now that the Blu-ray and HD DVD are out on the market. Yet so many studios have yet to make use of the extra space on the discs to bring viewers the full range of the audio experience. “Into The Blue” doesn’t stint. The sounds slam through the surround sound system loud enough for you to feel them explode within you. The soundtrack’s music is, at times, loud and raucous enough to make the subwoofer jump, but then the melancholy notes drift through the speakers on more emotional moments. Truly a great experience.
However, some creative license was taken with how long Paul Walker can stay underwater. On several instances, I found myself unconsciously holding my breath because I knew he was going to have to breathe at any moment and was going to start drowning. The scenes shot aboard the sunken airplane also triggered feelings of claustrophobia, which was immensely effective and probably what they were after, but the also served to remind me that a diver wouldn’t want to enter such a narrow and problematic environment without oxygen for fear of being trapped.
While on the dive, Jared and Bryce struggle in a mock fight underwater. Jared ends up losing his watch and swims back down for it. While he’s down there, he finds a ballast stone, one of the primary indicators of a shipwreck. In short order, the four become convinced that they’re sitting on top of a sunken treasure ship.
That’s when things get complicated. As it turns out, nearby is a plane wreck with a cocaine cargo that went down with it (as seen in the early moments of the movie). Jared and Sam are dead-set against having anything to do with the cocaine, but Bryce and Amanda are immediately drawn to the money they can get by hauling in the drugs rather than looking for treasure that may be scattered for miles along the ocean bed.
When they get down to crunching numbers regarding how much of an investment they need to get a boat capable of doing the hunting, Jared figures that’s going to cost at least thirty thousand dollars. Bryce insists he’s good for it. Later, Jared gets hugely disappointed when he discovers Bryce is tapped out. They know they’re sitting on a fortune, but they can’t get to it.
The movie continues to get tighter as they try diving without the proper gear. The continued hunt is dangerous on several levels. They nearly get caught by the Coast Guard patrolling the waters, then they find out Bates (Josh Brolin) is snooping around trying to figure out what they’re doing and if it’s worth taking an interest in.
The segue to the night club is interesting, and director Stockwell uses it to break away from the underwater scenes to immerse his viewers in the other side of the exotic island’s allure. The musical score reverberates through the surround sound system eloquently, and the visual landscape is a lot more crowded and busy than the underwater shots.
Tension breaks out at the club as Amanda goes off looking for, ultimately, a cocaine dealer because she’s still planning to offload the drugs they found. Bryce acts jealous, but it’s a false emotion because only moment before he was talking to Jared and planning to cut Amanda out of any of the treasure they might find. And this is truly the part where the film slots into a more “predictable” feel.
For the most part, “Into The Blue” plays with the viewer’s mind and emotions the way any thriller does. A small group gets menaced from outside and from within. Jared and company are threatened from within by Bryce and Amanda’s greed and easy acceptance of the cocaine as instant riches. They’re menaced from outside by the dive itself, from Bates the rival treasure hunter, from the Coast Guard, and from the cocaine dealers Amanda and Bryce hook up with. Even the rift between Jared and Sam seems like acting rather than real emotion, and when they get back together later—surprise!—they just fall back together and there’s no real strain. The question of whether Jared would walk away from the treasure for his love for Sam keeps being raised, but never answered in a way that satisfies. It’s like “yes” is the only answer, and it’s so expected that most viewers won’t even consider it a real question.
In some ways, the plot behind “Into The Deep” reminded me too much of 1977’s “The Deep” starring Nick Nolte and Jacqueline Bisset and 1998’s “A Simple Plan” starring Billy Bob Thornton, Bill Paxton, and Bridget Fonda.
Josh Brolin turns in a solid performance as a sleazeball, but even he doesn’t really get to do his worst. The underwater action sequences at the end cuts out all possibility of witty repartee of menace. The ending relies on the integrity of the airplane’s fuel tanks being maintained, but I had a really hard time believing that. The resulting explosions looked really pretty in high-def, but I just couldn’t buy it.
James Frain served up a chilling performance as Reyes, the cocaine dealer, but he came and went through the movie so fast that he hardly left an impression.
Still, there are a number of shots in the movie that could be used as posters and screensavers. They truly are that pretty and well detailed. Almost any of the underwater sequences would do it, but there were several images of Caan and Walker standing talking in front of a bright orange sunset that left them only as silhouettes that were absolutely dynamic. Those colors, the two-dimensional scaling of the actors, and the mood really came across as powerful and moving.
The Special Features section is lean, but not too surprisingly. Not enough information was relayed in the movie to warrant a section on recovering pirate treasure and shipwrecks from the sea. Since it was brought up and appeared to be such an integral part of the plot, I would have loved some background on the “mailboxes” used by salvage ships to clear away sand from the ocean bed where a shipwreck was suspected to be. What’s packaged instead is a nice, conversational pieces with the actors and crew. The part about the sharks not being digitized and actually being there was interesting, as was the fact that a lot of them got bitten.
If it weren’t for the beautiful imagery, “Into The Blue’s” paint-by-numbers action sequences wouldn’t draw too much attention. Everything turned out pretty much as expected, and there were few surprises. More than once, I really expected a shark attack that didn’t happen. And I really had to stretch to suspend belief that our heroes could so efficiently maneuver the sharks when they do attack during the finale. With blood in the water, the sharks would have gone kill-crazy. And there was no explanation for why the shark attacked Amanda.
Still, if you’re looking for a movie disc that will totally show off your Blu-ray player and surround sound system, “Into The Blue” has got everything you need in one neat little package. And it comes with Jessica Alba in a swimsuit!