Stream It Or Skip It?

Survival stories are a dime a dozen, and The Dive (now streaming on AMC+) is definitely one of them. A remake of 2020 Norwegian thriller Breaking Surface, the movie stars Louisa Krause and Sophie Lowe as scuba-diving sisters who, to put it lightly, run into a little bad luck at 100 feet beneath the sea. That’s not quite 20,000 leagues, but it can still kill a human or two, or at the very least, make them feel tiny and insignificant. Two questions: One, are there sharks, like the one that wanted to eat Mandy Moore? And will this often quite literally breathless thriller sink or swim? Let’s splash around and find out.


The Gist: These sisters don’t talk much – one lost her job and is living with Mom and the other doesn’t know, stuff like that. But at least they get together once a year to do a little underwater spelunking, as is tradition. To engage in gross reductionism, May (Krause) mostly has her shit together and Drew (Lowe) mostly does not. Maybe that’s not gross reductionism, because the movie never seems particularly interested in who they are as people. Even the perfunctory flashbacks are vague. They both look like beach bum types, but my mama says we shouldn’t judge people by their looks, so let’s not do that. 

Anyway, I think they’re in Malta. Wherever it is, it’s a remote locale, and if anything should go wrong, it’s the ideal place to not find another soul for miles who might help. May and Drew climb down an embankment and strap on their gear, including full-face masks with intercoms that will indubitably will cut in and out should they get separated in the murky deeps. They dive down and establish the existence of a little cave where they can take a breather if they should need one, which they won’t, since everything will go smashingly. They continue to descend, and I assume they’re bringing enough familial/sibling baggage with them to render their diver’s weight belts moot.

Suddenly, there’s rumbling. Rocks tumble into water and kick up murk. Our sisters get separated. The comms cut out, as comms in movies inevitably do. Do they need a little breather in the cave yet? Of course not! Gotta save that for when their oxygen is dangerously low. Drew panics a little, until she hears May’s voice, and follows her light. May’s leg is pinned beneath a big heavy rock. The situation sucks real bad, but it could be worse. May gives Drew some orders: Swim back up top. Get the extra oxygen tanks. Call for help. Get the jacks out of the boot of the car so they can lift the rock. Oh, and set a timer for 20 minutes, so Drew can get back before May’s air runs out. Got all that? We know you’re the ditz of the duo, May, but you can do it. Oh, and one more thing – try not to run into a couple dozen little nagging logistical hurdles that could make saving your sister’s life more difficult than it already is.  

Photo: Everett Collection

What Movies Will It Remind You Of?: Just cut off the leg! You’ve got another one. James Franco did that, but with his arm, in 127 Hours. Fall had a similar two-adventurous-women-in-peril plot, except it was up in the sky at the top of a rickety tower. And to make my aforementioned Mandy Moore reference make sense, 47 Meters Down also put sisters at the bottom of the ocean, albeit in the presence of a toothy predator.

Performance Worth Watching: Lowe is given a little bit more to do as the one who has to make her way up and down from sister to surface a couple times, so this acknowledgment is hers by default. 

Memorable Dialogue: Before shit goes south: 

Drew, diving into a crevasse: Right back into the womb!

May, following her: I already regret that I bought the comms system.

Sex and Skin: None.

Photo: Everett Collection

Our Take: Those of us with irrational fears of large bodies of very heavy and very wet water, and all the whatevers that may be swimming around in them, movies like The Dive are especially unsettling. Problem-solving for and alongside the characters takes a backseat to the awful idea that just closing your eyes and taking a big drink would solve this problem quickly, and sidestep the fear of a Subaru-sized barracuda sprinkling you with sriracha and making everything far worse. Am I being too dark? Maybe, but even the dopiest movies rooted in realistic primordial fears can be effective on a base level – and this movie isn’t particularly dopey, because none of the clear and present danger is alive and hungry. 

No, in The Dive, it’s not eels or jellyfish or stinging hydrasharks trying to kill you. It’s just the mundane functional realities of the physical world. And by “you,” I mean these two women, because we can’t help but put ourselves in their swim fins. How would you react if you were Drew, in a panicked hurry and under a significant time crunch to devise a means to save your sister? The alarm is going off – should you/Drew take an extra minute to flag down that boat? Meanwhile, how would you deal with the torturous waiting that May must endure? Yoga, maybe? “Don’t think, don’t think” is a mantra she repeats to herself, which might be good advice for those of us hoping to maintain our suspension of disbelief. Would you indulge Poignant Flashbacks To Your Childhood, when your father taught you and your sister to dive, and therefore bestow Profoundly Significant Meaning upon them? You might, if they aren’t rendered annoyingly, frustratingly indistinct, like they are here. 

Although the film can be tense, is capable of holding us in the moment, and avoids indulging ludicrous twists, it never supersedes its base functionality. It moves along quickly, but is rote in its execution of an overly familiar premise: Two people. In a horrifying scenario. Exposed to the elements. Death threatens from every direction. Will they test the limits of their physical and mental capabilities in order to survive? There’s a scene in which Drew can’t unlock the trunk so she just pushes the car off an embankment, hoping that’ll jar it open. This was the only time The Dive surprised me – two minutes among 90. Not nearly enough.

Our Call: The Dive is too damn basic in its conception and presentation of a survival story. SKIP IT. 

John Serba is a freelance writer and film critic based in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

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