Dark Tide is a terminator movie.
Halle Berry plays Kate, who believes that you can actually swim with sharks, the way you swim with dolphins, without getting eaten, as long as you do it right. During a dive with her boyfriend Jeff (Olivier Martinez) a shark attacks and kills one of her friends.
Flash-forward a year. Kate now runs a "seal spotting" business, which is failing miserably, and she hasn't been able to get back into the water since the accident. She also hasn't seen Jeff since then. One day Jeff shows up again with an offer she can't refuse. A very rich guy wants to swim with sharks, and he'll pay well. Against her better judgment she agrees to take the rich guy and his son out on the water. Guess what happens.
I genuinely have a hard time putting into words how bad Dark Tide is. It's just not possible for me to explain the sheer scope of its awfulness in a brief, succinct review, so please forgive the following ramble.
First of all, there's no way this film ended up the way the script was written. No script that bad would have been approved. It's also very hard to believe that any marginally talented professional from the film industry worked on the post-production. The opening sequence of the film - the introduction to the characters and the concept of swimming with sharks - is so oddly put together that it can only be the result of a catastrophic meltdown in the editing bay. The sequence looks like someone tried to cut 30 minutes of screen time down to 5. My guess would be that the director walked out (or was kicked out), then the editor followed, leaving the producer to cut the film together, possibly with the help of the janitor. This is obviously just a theory.
The biggest issue of Dark Tide is the core concept of the movie: Swimming with sharks. It's just not possible. Now, don't give me any of that Nature Channel or Shark Week crap, I'm sure a professional could get lucky and survive a few swims, but that's not the same thing. YOU CAN'T SWIM WITH SHARKS. Not as if they are friendly and domesticated animals, anyway. The whole thing just seems completely insane, borderline suicidal.
So about that opening scene... Of course they're attacked. Of course Kate's best friend dies. Why wouldn't he? Which sane person would think this was a safe thing to do on a regular basis?! If that's the film's thesis - that you can swim with sharks safely - it needs to establish it properly and realistically. You can't just have a character say "swimming with sharks is safe", any more than a character can say "I'm going to cut off my own head and reattach it, it'll be fine." The only thing the film manages to establish with the opening sequence is leaving the audience cramping with laughter, while screaming WE TOLD YOU SO. SEE, YOU CAN'T SWIM WITH SHARKS.
Flash-forward one year. We meet Kate again, but wait, what's this? She looks gorgeous, she's smiling and there's no trace of anything weighing her down. Isn't her business failing? Isn't she completely traumatized by her experience? Yes, and yes. Though you wouldn't be able to tell, by looking at the images. Halle Berry plays the part as if she's a spoiled teenager in a sitcom.
Then Kate's boyfriend Jeff returns and they're reunited, after being apart for almost a year. So the film tells us, but that's not what happens. What happens is that the film shows us a scene which could have taken place the day after the accident. The weather looks the same and they look the same. There's no sense that ANY time has passed.
Then Kate and Jeff start to fight, as if they have this huge backstory we're supposed to know, but there's no emotional reality in the dialogue. It's as if the actors and the director are completely tone-deaf. How can I relate to a discussion about them getting back together, when I have no sense that they were ever apart? How can I relate to their conflicting feelings, when I have no idea what those feelings are? You just can't write a scene like that! ALSO, YOU CAN'T SWIM WITH SHARKS.
To make matters worse the camera races around them, and every shot is handheld, with NO sense of rhythm. It's completely impossible to read the character's faces, or get any sense of the mood. So the essence of the entire conversation is simply lost, due to inept filmmaking. Later, when Kate's best friend asks her why she can't get back together with Jeff she says. "Because, just because." That's not dialogue. That's arse gravy.
Then of course we get to the meat of the story: The rich guy who wants to swim with sharks. This is what happens: An obnoxious rich guy shows up, with absolutely NO idea what he's doing, but he wants to go swimming with sharks the next day. Without preparation or anything. He waves a wad of cash in front of Kate and even though she says "You just can't just swim with sharks, I've been training for ten years", she still agrees to take the job. YOU CAN'T DO THAT. ALSO, YOU CAN'T SWIM WITH SHARKS.
Then we get a scene, which I believe is intended to alert us to the fact that sharks are dangerous. Some poachers go into the water in the middle of the night, to find some valuable shells or something. Here's the problem: We know sharks are dangerous, because we're not idiots and because we've JUST SEEN IT in the opening scene. Second, the scene fails to accomplish this unneeded task because... Erhm, what's the word I'm looking for? Oh yeah, because IT'S COMPLETELY BLACK. The divers swim in the big dark ocean, wearing black diving suits, with tiny useless flashlights. Most of the shots in this sequence are black. I mean LITERALLY black. Then there's a flash of something, we hear some splashing water, and then some screams. Either a character was just killed, or someone from the crew found the script and decided to give it a read, while they waited for the lights to turn on so shooting could begin. This is a film (term used lightly), not a radio-play. SCENES CAN'T TAKE PLACE IN COMPLETE DARKNESS. ALSO, YOU CAN'T SWIM WITH SHARKS.
Of course, the events of this scene are never mentioned again.
Despite all of the above, the most insane part of Dark Tide is the finale.
They set up the rich guy as a truly obnoxious character, who's used to getting what he wants, regardless of anybody else. They establish that even his son hates him, and of course the guy behaves completely irresponsibly in the water. Finally Kate can't take it anymore, so what does she do? Does she cancel the trip and drive him home ? Nope. She gets all mad and decides to take him out to the most dangerous shark waters in the world, just to show him. And his son eggs her on! Not only that, but when they get there, and it turns out that he's a little unsure about jumping in, they all rally together and bully him into doing it anyway, despite his protests! Who would behave like this? No one in the real world would! Hell, most people in fiction wouldn't either, because it's completely irresponsible and stupid, and virtually indistinguishable from murder.
Let's recap. We're going off to swim with sharks. The guide is a woman who hasn't been in the water in a year, and her clients are two guys who know nothing about sharks, and little about diving? And when one of them turns out to be a dick, they take him to the sharks' feeding ground to teach him a lesson? No, I'm sorry, it's just too stupid.
The Technical Angle
Generally speaking Dark Tide is badly shot, and badly edited, so much so that it's frequently impossible to tell what's going on.
The final sequence is particularly bad. Most of it consists of tight, hand-held shots, and the frame is once again mostly black. While our heroes fight for their survival, the editor cuts from one incomprehensible shot to another, and in between we get random shots of sharks that could be from anywhere. I have no idea which character I'm looking at. When someone gets eaten by a shark, the only way you can tell who it is, is by way of elimination, by trying to recognize the remaining voices.
And let me tell you about those badly shot, badly edited, complete black scenes under water, where the characters communicate via hand-signals... 1) I don't understand hand-signals. 2) The hand-signals are not visible BECAUSE EVERYTHING IS FREAKIN' BLACK. ALSO, YOU CAN'T SWIM WITH SHARKS.
Ever tried to chew sand? Did your bike ever break, so the gears are just grinding against each other without getting traction? That's how I felt watching this movie. It wasn't the fact that it was bad that bothered me, I watch many bad films, it's very educational, and I knew this one would be bad too. However, I was not prepared for this utter barf-bag of stupidity and incompetence.
Director John Stockwell is a real filmmaker. Halle Berry is a real actress. How can these people be involved in something SO atrocious? Everything is relative, of course, it's not like this is as bad as 2-Headed Shark Attack (2012), or another one of those similar straight-to-video crap-feasts. In some ways it's actually worse.
I rarely get shocked when I watch a movie these days. Really shocked, I mean. Dark Tide actually shocked me.