In Maximilian Erlenwein’s survival thriller The Dive, sisters May (Louisa Krause) and Drew (Sophie Lowe) set out on their yearly diving trip when disaster strikes. The underwater cave they’re exploring collapses, trapping May’s leg under a large rock. With their air supply running dangerously low, Drew must find a way to free her sister before she meets a watery grave.
Somewhere in the realm between Open Water and 127 Hours, Erlenwein’s flick is as minimalistic of a thriller as it gets, thanks to its small cast and singular location. Despite its gripping premise, however, this film rarely manages to achieve the edge-of-your-seat suspense that it aims for.
One thing that The Dive gets right is its sense of claustrophobia and isolation. It’s made clear from the start that the sisters are entirely on their own. While the quietness of the picturesque cliffside location has a serene quality to it (especially in the initial underwater sequences), this beauty is soon replaced by the stark realisation of just how alone they are, as the only sound heard below the waves are the pair’s own voices through radios in their masks. The isolation extends to the surface where there’s nobody who can help for miles.
With a series of instructions from her sister and a timer ticking down to when the air runs out, there’s a dramatic sense of urgency when Drew begins her task. The situation is already stressful enough, but factors like the amount of time it takes to put her diving gear back on work as a clever way of ramping up the pressure further. However, this heightened tension doesn’t last for long, as the script descends into a series of fetch quests peppered with terrible decisions.
The best survival films are those with smart and resourceful characters. Drew is not one of those. She makes so many frustratingly poor decisions in a bid to create more drama that she quickly becomes unlikeable. Similarly, the script stumbles in exploring the siblings’ strained relationship. With only small glimpses into their past that are never properly addressed, audiences aren’t given any reason to care about the sisters beyond the immediate danger they find themselves in.
The Dive begins with a solid premise, but its lacklustre characters and dwindling tension are what ultimately sink this aquatic thriller.
The Dive is released in select cinemas on 25th August 2023.
Watch the trailer for The Dive here: