Plummeting to predictable depths, ‘Pressure’ does build on some well set pieces but also runs out of air quite a way before the end, leaving you as an audience member waiting and wanting the obvious finale to arrive.
In the Indian Ocean, an oil ship sends four deep sea saturation divers down to check on its’ pipelines. 650 feet down to be exact, the four men end up stranded as their diving bell is damaged and disconnected from the ship. They may not get on but they’ll have to try to as the oxygen decreases and the pressure mounts.
I saw ‘Black Sea’ starring Jude Law earlier in the year and they share similar premises, one with oil and one with gold, both under the sea and both in confined dramatic situations. The Law outing survives better with more gripping suspense helping the thriller. This one does offer some tense moments to a degree but there’s nothing special in these four characters fight to stay alive. I think ‘Black Sea’ had cultural stand offs and interesting arcs to help it whereas this film has little in the way of character momentum, or if it tries to it becomes wholly bland and expected.
Ron Scalpello directs a deep sea thriller as you’d expect it to look, so in that sense it’s not bad. The diving bell itself is a fine location, blinking lights and intense framing piles on the cabin fever and it is actually a demonstration of nicely making you feel claustrophobic watching the plot play out. The constant far shots of the bell shining on the bottom of the ocean are annoyingly repetitive and Engel’s pithy backstory to aid his grumpy no hoper attitude are shot in a dismally ethereal way like most A Level flashbacks would be done. Though the bloody underwater dream sequence is stylish and cool for the film, standing out in being a little different from what has come before.
Alan McKenna and Paul Staheli are the writers and they come up with some alright scary moments for the divers to tackle, the whole underwater idea frightens me anyway, so the tasks they face are dealt with well and written in a pacy enough manner to justify the title of the movie. It’s in terms of the characters that they crumble, Engel has his past, Mitchell has his faith, Hurst has his addictions and demons and Jones has his youth and expecting partner. They’re so clichéd that it hurts, it’s clear who’ll survive from the time you meet each person and it’s obvious what obstructions each character will provide.
Danny Huston plays Engel well, the grouchy nature of his experienced diver filling the diving bell twice over. He has the face for that lived in down in the dumps behaviour but with Huston you end up rooting for him too, knowing that he’s right in what he knows. Joe Cole is the cocky yet growing anxiously youth with little experience and a pregnant missus at home, he’s good with the thinly drawn character if that’s all I can say. Matthew Goode has a knack for acting there’s no denying, he’s good in everything I’ve seen him in, the emotive eyes he has and the dramatic wavering in his delivery help him in this film as the hopeful Mitchell. Alan McKenna doesn’t have too much to do but convinces as the troublesome Hurst.
It’s a short movie with satisfying bubbles of intensity and longer stretches of dwindling potential. This is certainly not terrible but so much more could have come from this deep sea threat of human life and death.