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Dustin Putman

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Into the Blue (2005)
2 Stars

Directed by John Stockwell
Cast: Paul Walker, Jessica Alba, Scott Caan, Ashley Scott, Josh Brolin, James Frain, Dwayne Adway, Tyson Beckford, Chris Taloa
2005 – 110 minutes
Rated: Rated PG-13 (for violence, drug material, some sexual content and language).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, September 28, 2005.

If director John Stockwell (2002's "Blue Crush") strived to give "Into the Blue" any purpose outside of showing off his actors' toned, gorgeous bods, he clearly lost focus somewhere along the way from page to screen. An oceanic WB-drama-cum-thriller, the film is egregiously light on plot for its first hour, content to ogle the six-pack abs of Paul Walker (2003's "2 Fast 2 Furious") and firm backside of Jessica Alba (2005's "Fantastic Four"), all the while offering up some of the most lush, picturesque underwater photography in recent cinematic memory. For a while, that is actually enough, until its aimless wandering gets the best of it. By the time the conflict and suspense angle comes into play, it is too little, too late, coming off as more of a necessity than a natural development.

Jared (Paul Walker), a borderline-vagabond living in the Bahamas with girlfriend Sam (Jessica Alba), can't seem to hold down a job. His dream of living off of the valuables found on the ocean floor becomes a possible reality when he, best friend Bryce (Scott Caan), Bryce's girl-toy Amanda (Ashley Scoot), and Sam stumble upon the one-two punch of a crashed plane holding hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of cocaine and buried gold apparently left by pirates. With any hopes of making off with the treasure, they must keep the sunken plane and its contents a secret from authorities—an undertaking that turns out to be easier said than done.

Based on the footage director John Stockwell and cinematographer Peter Zuccarini (2004's "After the Sunset") have compiled, they could make a great nature documentary together about either the creatures of the deep or professional scuba divers. With a script to work with, Stockwell, at least, is on less sure footing. "Into the Blue" is initially a delight solely because of the sequences where the actors, looking their best at all times, swim among the blue water's wildlife.

The problem that gradually builds from this is that there is little else the film has to offer. The characters are great-looking cardboard cutouts—the only thing learned about Jared and Sam is that he doesn't know what he wants to do with his life and she is a goody-goody who works at a Sea World-like theme park (Bryce and Amanda are even more sketchily conceived). Why the viewer should root for them to get away with the treasure through lying and covering up a downed plane with corpses inside is never answered, unfortunate because the whole movie hinges on the would-be tension of their plan.

Finally, the stakes are raised in third act with a double-twist, in which the group runs afoul of some dangerous drug lords, only for an even more unsavory villain (his identity will remain nameless) to rise to the forefront. The sudden change in genre from a sluggishly-paced heist picture to a high-octane action-thriller is welcome, if only because something with a little more life-or-death threat is finally happening on the screen. The climax, which depends on a lot of far-fetched coincidences involving the actions of the bad guys and the insatiable hunger of the swarming sharks, is mildly involving and surprisingly grisly in spots, but screenwriter Matt Johnson (2004's "Torque") doesn't know what to do with it. The final scene feels like a tacked-on hack job, falsely optimistic and made all the more misguided by suggesting that Jared hasn't truly learned anything during the course of the film. Without a believable character arc, Jared is hardly more likable than the deadly drug lords, and why the even-keeled Sam would want to stay with him is anyone's guess.

"Into the Blue" is better overall than one might expect—this is, after all, a purely summer movie that was nonsensically pushed to the tail-end of September—but it is so very thin in character and lethargic from a narrative standpoint that it evaporates from the viewer's mind immediately. The only thing worth remembering, then, is the marvelous underwater photography and the physical attributes of Paul Walker and Jessica Alba, the latter of whom has never looked so stunning. With more than a stick figure to portray, Alba could potentially be a very charismatic actress; she brings both a toughness and gentle intimacy to her role that is quite alluring in and of itself. Otherwise, "Into the Blue" is decidedly mediocre fare, a motion picture of minimal depth and even less story. That it has trouble enough in figuring out what kind of movie it wants to be should have been the first red flag that another rewrite was in order.
© 2008 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman