Wet wet wet: cinema in 2023 seems to have water on the brain, from Disney’s rather soggy remake of The Little Mermaid to silly shark chomp-fest Meg 2: The Trench. The heightened hoopla of Barbie made “beach” an entire aesthetic while Pixar’s Elemental took things even further by featuring water as one of its two leads (amusingly, his name was “Wade”). It’s not even over yet: those gimmicky 4DX seats that jerk around on hydraulics and spray misted water at you will be pushed to the limit by upcoming sub-aquatic superhero sequel Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom
It all feels like some sort of trickle-down effect from Avatar: The Way of Water, that luxurious undersea adventure that made the sun-drenched, gorgeously blue oceans of Pandora look like a soul-soothing paradise. James Cameron somehow spent over a decade and reportedly around £350 million on a message movie that said: come on in, the water’s lovely!
New scuba thriller The Dive – working with the tiniest fraction of an Avatar budget – might take a very
different tack, but it still packs a lot of emotion and drama into its compressed running time.
Two sisters are on a slightly awkward road trip to a diving spot on a rugged but remote coastline: Drew (Sophie Lowe) seems to be the driving force behind the holiday, almost babbling in her enthusiasm; older sister May (Louisa Krause) is chillier, with an extremely professional approach to scuba. They park up their hire car on a cliff, hump gear down to the shore and push off a very rickety-looking metal jetty into the ocean. It will turn out to be an unlucky dip.
As any experienced diver will tell you, things get dark very quickly once you get more than a few metres below the surface. The sisters descend through a dramatic rock formation, carving beams of light through the murk with torches and communicating via a handy intercom system built into their helmets.
“Right back into the womb!” enthuses Drew. But the bonhomie seems a little forced. These sisters are clearly struggling to relate. Perhaps isolating themselves from the rest of the world is a last-ditch attempt at family therapy. But before they can make any breakthroughs, a freak landslide brings a heap of rocks down on them like an asteroid shower. It is absolutely terrifying, perhaps because it taps into some deep atavistic nightmares of being buried alive and slowly suffocating.