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I have a huge film-crush on Luc Besson, but even I was skeptical of The Big Blue.  A two-plus hour movie chronicling the competiton between two free divers?  Free diving being swimming down into the water as deep as one can go, without any supporting apparatus, like an oxygen tank.  As expected, it was one of my least favorite Luc Besson movies, but it was actually surprisingly gripping.

Jean-Marc Barr stars as a childlike restless soul with a troubled heart.  Brought up in a seaside community, his father dies in a diving accident, but that only drives Barr to master the water.  He works both as a subject in science experiments, holding his breath underwater in arctic climates, as well as a wrangling dolphins.  (Like Jessica Alba in Good Luck Chuck!).  Jean Reno is the gregarious diver who holds the free diving record.  And yet, he knows he won’t be satisfied until he’s the best, meaning beating Barr, his childhood friend (or acquaintance, at least).  Barr accepts, and the two compete at a series of free diving events, their dives getting deeper and deeper, thus becoming more and more dangerous.  Rosanna Arquette falls for Barr at first sight, and leaves her entire life behind on the chance he reciprocates.

The movie is sparse.  Which is a term I probably use too liberally.  Here I mean that events don’t necessarily drive the movie.  Besson co-wrote the screenplay, based off of his story which mimicks two real life divers, with Robert Garland (who has The Bob Newhart Show, Sanford and Son, and uncredited work on Tootsie and the Twilight Zone movie on his resume), Marilyn Goldin, Jacques Mayol (one of the real life divers), and Marc Perrier.  I must admit a bias against underwater scenes.  I can’t explain why, but I just rarely enjoy them.  Most of my least favorite Bond scenes are the underwater ones.  In any case, that obviously negatively affected my thoughts on the film. But while the film isn’t empty, it just feels like there should be more there.  Or maybe it is more that I felt there was more to explore in the story, and the events depicted seemed more forced than I expected.

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June 2008
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