Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Mmmm... fish!

A friend from college invited me to watch Open Water after scoring a free access to the advanced screening. Having read about the account and watched the interview of indie director Chris Kentis in the Today Show earlier this year, I pretty much had an idea what to expect from the movie. To say that this movie is something comparable to Steven Spielberg's Jaws movie is something that's really off the mark. Like the last movie I've watched, this film was inspired by a true story of two divers who were accidentally left behind during their diving vacation at the Great Barrier Reef in 1998 (see story below). A lot of people are put off by the idea of watching a couple squabble in the middle of the sea for one and a half hours and I would be too but if that would be all I could expect from this movie. The squabbling is only a minor point in the whole film and it's only a natural reaction if you were left in a deep hole with somebody else. After all, left to your own devices you would want to have a scapegoat to put all the blame on. But halfway through the movie, I thought this wasn't as accurate as it was portrayed. If you were stranded in the middle of the wilderness like the top of a snowy mountain, a desert island, a forest, or in this case, in the middle of the ocean wouldn't you begin to ponder your existence? Wouldn't you begin to look back at the things you could have done and shouldn't have done and finally, won't your mind automatically turn towards God (or His existence if you're an atheist or if he cares about your situation, if you're an agnostic)? This last part was also sorely lacking in the movie Cast Away. There they were stuck in a situation they were helpless to do something about and while they did go over the four other stages of grief, they conveniently skipped over the bargaining stage. I mean, what were they thinking?! This is somewhat UNlikely and UNthinkable given the fact that they were about to face the great beyond and their Creator and they never even once thought of calling out to God to extend their lives by sending somebody to rescue them in exchange for say a changed life? Right?

Given a small budget of $130,000 the director and producer managed to come up with a fairly good movie. It has the markings of another indie movie that also made it big without the jumpy screenshots that made me want to hurl inside the theater. From what I can remember during the Today Show interview there were only four people shooting on location in the sea (two actors, director, and camera man). In the footage they've shown, the camera man was safely contained inside a shark cage to get the requisite underwater shots with the real sharks. There were some slow scenes in parts of the movie and there were truly terrifying moments where all we could hear are the sobs and screams of the lead actress and not much else. These were almost the same elements that made other scary movies truly terrifying. It was a good movie and you should catch it while it's still showing, but it's okay just in case you weren't able to. Skip it from your DVD watchables list as there's not too many scenes in the movie to justify this exercise.

Lost at sea: Tom and Eileen Lonergan

I read about the true story of the husband and wife who were accidentally left behind in a scuba diving expedition sometimes late last year and read about the extensive account of the event only after the movie. What happened was a result of pure neglect and unbelievable oversight on the part of those involved. The said event happened fairly recently, January 25, 1998 in Australia. Tom and Eileen Lonergan were on a three month holiday after spending a total of three years in the island country of Tuvalu and Fiji as part of the Peace Corps. The side trip to Australia was one of the countries they want to vacation to before they head back home to America.

They boarded a 26-passenger boat, the Outer Edge in Port Douglas near Queensland that were to take them to the ribbon reefs, some 40 miles offshore. There were various accounts of what had happened but inavariably the boat's skipper, Geoffrey Nairn, had mixed up the number of tourists and adjusted the head count to a complete count. Nairn only noticed the couple's personal belongings in the Outer Edge's lost-property bin two days later. Alarmed by the situation he checked with the hotel if the couple had returned. With no trace of their room being occupied the last couple of days, a five-day search began with no results. Several months later a fisherman 100 miles north of the site found a dive slate which records their thoughts as dawn broke that morning. In a wobbly scrawl faded by months in the water, Tom Lonergan had written:
"[Mo]nday Jan 26; 1998 08am. To anyone [who] can help us: We have been abandoned on A[gin]court Reef by MV Outer Edge 25 Jan 98 3pm. Please help us [come] to rescue us before we die. Help!!!"
Along with other clues that surfaced like Eileen's wetsuit, inflatable dive jackets marked with Tom and Eileen's names, along with their tanks - still buoyed up by a few remnants of air - and one of Eileen's fins, various speculations began to surface but with two things certain: shark attack was out of the question and the probability of dehydration was a big factor in their eventual demise. The news about this a tragic accident spread far and wide spelling disaster for the Queensland dive industry. Geoffrey Nairn was tried for manslaughter in November 1999, and was acquitted; his company, Outer Edge Dive, did not fair as fortunately as it was fined after pleading guilty for negligence. It was closed down shortly.

Eileen's father, John Hains, says he doesn't hold any grudge against Nairn or the Outer Edge's crew in a recent interview. "I don't have any hard feelings against anybody, because it was an accident," he says. His only disappointment is that among all the equipment washed up on the shores of north Queensland, there was never a trace of his daughter's body. "It leaves a big hole in you to lose your kid, that's part of your life. I wish they had found them, so we had something. I suppose we have the Great Barrier Reef. They're part of that." (as reported by CDNN)

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