Deep Blah Sea
For a film of very little substance, Into the Blue does manage to generate some interest by marrying two very different concepts: a beautifully-shot undersea journey and a B-grade actioner. The result is like a combination of Jerry Bruckheimer moviemaking with National Geographic-style cinematography; just imagine if March of the Penguins featured Steven Seagal breaking some guy's arm in the background every so often.
Putting so much energy into looking as gorgeous as it can, Into the Blue forgets that it's a brainless, treasure-hunting adventure. It commits the fatal flaw of taking itself seriously. With all that effort expended making the stars look good, making the locales look good, and making the underwater photography look good, it's too bad a bit of that oomph couldn't be spared to help the finished product be good.
On a sunny island paradise in the Bahamas, Jared (Paul Walker) and Sam (Jessica Alba) make their living in the water. Jared takes tourists on scuba-diving tours, while Sam works at a water park. But times are rough, and after Jared walks away from his dead-end job, the couple's future seems uncertain. That is, until Bryce (Scott Caan), an old friend of Jared's, flies into town, with gal-pal Amanda (Ashley Scott) in tow, and decides to show him a good time out on the water.
While exploring the ocean floor, the foursome come upon not one but two huge discoveries: a downed airplane with a huge load of cocaine in the cargo hold, and the possible presence of a mythical ship carrying millions upon millions of treasure in the area. While dollar signs fly through everyone's eyes, a split forms in the group. Jared wants to search for the missing ship and make history, but Bryce prefers to cash in the drugs and get rich quick, thus paving the way for some rather unsavory characters to enter the picture and complicate the situation big-time.
At its core, Into the Blue is a beautiful-looking film about beautiful-looking people, doing things in a beautiful-looking place that, while such activities may not be exactly legal, they look so darn exciting. There are two directions filmmaker John Stockwell (crazy/beautiful) could've taken with this premise: (a) present a hard-thinking thriller investigating the effect of morals and ethics when priceless treasure is being sought after, or (b) give viewers a handful of GQ models hunting treasure and getting the best tan of their lives in the process. But Stockwell obviously wants to have his cake and eat it too. He takes a cast of hip, young performers who all look like they were interrupted in the middle of a photo shoot and pairs them with a phony, pretentious story.
Granted, creatures of the sea have rarely been more beautifully captured on film, and it's good to see actors navigating themselves underwater so well. However, when the exploration scenes pile up and drag on for what feels like ages, they seem rambling and unnecessary -- and fail to exude the edgy, exotic approach Stockwell was looking for. Come on, folks, it really shouldn't be that hard to pump up the energy in a film about treasure hunting; even National Treasure made reading the Declaration of Independence sound exciting! In the end, with its slow pacing and ineffective plot twists, Into the Blue ends up trying to be a more complex film than it really is.
Still, this movie does have its merits. Stockwell utilizes the oceanic setting to his advantage, and once in a while, he scores with a truly exciting scene (the moment with one character's foot trapped under an ancient cannon below water was a real corker). Walker and Alba work well together, and for the third time this year (following Sin City and Fantastic Four), Hollywood captures the unspeakably gorgeous Jessica Alba at her most luminescent. Unfortunately, the script does Alba a disservice by undermining her abilities with such a disappoining plot.
Had it dived more enthusiastically into the adventurous spirit it wanted to project, Into the Blue might have been a much better movie. As is, it isn't a bad film, merely a confused one.
MY RATING: ** (out of ****)
(Released by Sony Pictures Studios and rated "PG-13" for intense sequences of action violence, drug material, some sexual content and language.)