Review Date: 4/15/17
Director: Peter Yates
Writer: Peter Benchley
Music: John Barry
Cast: Robert Shaw, Nick Nolte, Jacqueline Bisset, Louis Gossett Jr., Eli Wallach
David (Nick Nolte) and Gail (Jacqueline Bisset) are two young lovers vacationing in Bermuda. While diving, they explore the wreck of a World War II freighter and find a strange ampoule of morphine. It doesn't take long before drug lord Cloche (Louis Gossett Jr.) finds out about the discovery, and threatens them with violence if they don't cooperate. Together with treasure hunter Romer Trece (Robert Shaw), David and Gail head back to the sunken ship to retrieve the rest of the morphine and whatever other treasure they can find. Hungry sharks, armed thugs, voodoo witch doctors, and one very large moray eel hinder their progress.
First and foremost, the underwater cinematography is astounding and the film looks absolutely fantastic. The challenging shoot rivals that of "The Abyss" (1989), and apart from a handful of dangerous stunt shots, the actors did all of their own dive sequences in the waters of Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, and Australia. This brings an astonishing level of realism, tension, and terror to the production, especially when you see Nick Nolte trapped underwater without any breathing apparatus. Robert Shaw gives an excellent performance as a grouchy and world-weary adventurer who still has a gleam in his eye for sunken treasure. Despite his rude and unpleasant demeanor, he takes David and Gail under his wing and protects them from Cloche's hired goons. Jacqueline Bisset is fabulous and her character is portrayed with unflinching confidence, honesty, and strength. She's also quite beautiful, and the shockingly sexy opening sequence of her in a wet t-shirt is alone worth the price of admission. Another heart stopping sequence is the shark feeding frenzy, which took over seven hundred dives to complete. It's real, raw, and truly frightening.
Despite the high production values and stellar photography, the miniature sunken ship and mechanical eel are decidedly tacky looking. The pacing can also be challenging at times, and it feels like the film could be tightened up a bit. That said, even though it's two hours long, there's also a three hour long director's cut, and I'm thankful for the edits that were made for the theatrical version. The biggest disappointment is the overly contrived happy ending, which is oddly out of character and feels like a Hollywood cop-out. However, this should in no way deter you from checking out this stunning and amazing thriller.