Drew (Sophie Lowe, "Blow the Man Down") is excited about making a dive at the bottom of a majestic cliff face, but her older sister May (Louisa Krause, TV's 'Ray Donovan,' "Maggie Moore(s)") seems withdrawn. After examining a cave 20 feet down that allows them to surface, they head into open water, but a rockslide above the surface strikes May and pins her deep below the surface. May gives specific instructions on what Drew should do within the next 20 minutes, but everything that can go wrong does on “The Dive.”
Laura's Review: B-
German cowriter (with Joachim Hedén)/director Maximilian Erlenwein, remakes Hedén's Norwegian "Breaking Surface" in English at a remote and dramatic location in Malta which adds to the film’s suspense. Narratively, the film works for its first two acts, May’s imaginings and memories sketchily filling in some blanks about the sisters’ relationship, but a rushed third act incorporating a prop that’s been apparent for some time blunts the movie’s overall impact.
While the sisters seem in sync driving along a coastal road while belting out ‘Only You,’ once they surface in the small cave with just enough head room to take their masks off, Drew tells May she can’t read her and asks if she’s even enjoying this outing. A miserable looking May assures her she is and heads out of the cave. Minutes later, stones, rocks and boulders rain into the sea and May disappears.
A panicked Drew finally finds her at the bottom of the churned up ocean floor. May only has about 25 minutes of air, Drew even less. May calmly instructs Drew to make a direct ascent ignoring her alarm as she’s within safe limits; to set a timer for 20 minutes; make her way to their car; call for help, then return with one of their two extra tanks of air sitting in the back seat. Drew follows the first step, but distracted by a boat near the shore she attempts to call to, promptly drops the car keys into an inaccessible spot and every improvisation she makes, including running a mile to the nearest building, yields nothing to help. She at least gets an extra tank by throwing a rock through their car window. Meanwhile, May, trying to remain calm to preserve precious air, alternates between remembering she and Drew as girls learning to free dive with their father and imagining spitting out her true feelings towards her sister back in that cave.
Cinematographer Frank Griebe ("Run Lola Run") mainly keeps close to the women underwater, trailing behind or shooting from high overhead on land. Erlenwein never lets us forget that ticking clock during his real time 90 minute running time, but loses some pent up pressure when everything suddenly seems to go right during the last few minutes, desperation driving Drew to suddenly find her inner MacGyver. While May’s resentment towards her little sister is merely hinted at, we can deduce a lot from quick snippets, fed by Drew’s early exhibition of fumbling ineptitude. Sisterly love proves stronger than physical setbacks, but again, Erlenwein packs a little too much drama into his closing moments. “The Dive” avoids schlocky underwater tactics, but could have used a little more air.
Robin's Review: B-
RLJE releases "The Dive" in theaters and everywhere you rent movies on 8/25/23.