The Movie Waffler New to Netflix - THE DIVE | The Movie Waffler

New to Netflix - THE DIVE

Two sisters face death when their diving expedition is interrupted by a landslide.

Review by Benjamin Poole

Directed by: Maximilian Erlenwein

Starring: Sophie Lowe, Louisa Krause

The Dive poster

Timing is everything in showbusiness, so pity the distributors of Maximilian Erlenwein's tight survival horror The Dive (a sunnier remake of Joachim Hedén’s snowy Breaking Surface from 2020), which centres on a hapless deep-sea diver trapped at the bottom of the ocean facing almost certain death. It's a situation which is presently a little too close to home perhaps, depicting circumstances which the collective mind has recoiled from in recent months, and may therefore be difficult to recalibrate to, and sell as, popcorn entertainment. Mind you, I suppose the Doomsday Clock's tick closer towards midnight with Russia's March announcement of plans to station nuclear weapons in Belarus hasn't harmed Oppenheimer, and if we are all about to eat rats and piss in the street while our E.T. dolls melt (ala Threads) then we might as well watch a gripping and effective oceanic thriller in the meantime. Take our mind off it, like.

The Dive review

And in the context of free diving, too, timing is everything: the ever-decreasing measures of oxygen levels, allowing 10 minutes for a decompression break half-way between the 30 metres separating depth and surface, knowing the precise ratio of air remaining to distance left. Precision is key, so the last thing you want when going on a family dive with your adult sister is for an avalanche of immutable rocks to trap you on the seabed with just 25 minutes of air remaining. It doesn't help matters that your sister isn't the most accomplished diver either, or also that, as the genre seems to dictate these days, there is unresolved familial trauma between the two of you - yikes! This is the situation May (Louisa Krause - good) finds herself in, as The Dive aligns us with her panicked kinswoman Drew (Sophie Lowe - also good) and her attempts to keep her older sister alive and, somehow, save her.

The Dive review

As an entry in the subgenre of people (usually women) stuck somewhere out of the way, The Dive is a stomach-churning aquatic counterpoint to last year's airborne Fall and shares that film's inventive manufacture of mini conflicts which keep the narrative surging along. As she attempts to get help, dipping in and out of the sea to retrieve more air for May and doing what she can with the limited minutes on land, we see likeable Drew flummoxed by a locked car (the keys and oxygen tanks were buried in the avalanche!), agonise in split seconds over whether to take her sister air right now or push an extra minute to attract the attention of a just-out-of-the-way fishing boat, all the while nauseously suffering the bends. It's nail biting, and, with The Dive substituting claustrophobia for Fall's vertiginous terror, traumatising, too.

Perhaps The Dive has ingeniously tapped into an undiagnosed phobia as, even during the first 10 minutes of the film, watching lithe limbs squeeze through between heavy rocks, slipping into dark subterranean caves, navigating the unforgiving murk of the ocean floor, I found the film almost unbearable and came close to walking out! Erlenwein and cinematographer Frank Griebe make the uneasy most of the threateningly confined locations: upon the credits of the press screening there was a rushed exodus from the screen, as the critic cognoscenti of South Wales (a bunch of tough guys if ever there was) clamoured for space and fresh air...

The Dive review

Personally, I could have done without the flashbacks to May's fatherly trauma, and whatever the issue that she seems to antagonistically have prior to the dive with Drew is (the film doesn't really explicate it, nor seem that interested in the interpersonal conflict aside from vaguely including it for the sake of form or as a holdover from the more detailed backstory of Breaking Surface). This is a tactile film, which mercilessly taps into primitive, immediate terrors. With its urgently convincing depiction of being trapped underwater, and the submersive sensations it creates, The Dive has more than enough sunken treasures for horror fans.

The Dive is on Netflix UK/ROI now.

2023 movie reviews