Deep sea thriller Pressure is a brand new work from British director Ron Scalpello. Despite this there’s something very familiar about it’s story of four divers trapped below the surface in a small pod disconnected from reality. The group is made up of leader, family man and religious Mitchell (Matthew Goode), young, inexperienced, expecting his first child Jones (Joe Cole), drunk, wash up Hurst (Alan McKenna) and old hand with a dark past Engel (Danny Huston).
Out at sea they are sent down to repair an oil pipeline, whilst they are below in true Life of Pi style a storm destroys their cargo ship killing all on board. Hundreds of feet below the surface they struggle to maintain oxygen and signal for help all the while they have to contend with an increasing series of obstacles. In-fighting, leaking oxygen tanks, jellyfish it feels like it’s all been done before whether in Das Boot, Gravity or even Finding Nemo.
That’s certainly not to say that Pressure is a bad film by any stretch of the imagination. Scalpello has a great eye. Some of the underwater sequences are some of the most visually striking since Besson’s The Big Blue, wherein the ocean becomes a dark enveloping cloud of doom and mystery. The four-man crew all put in spirited performances. Joe Cole in particular stands his ground against Goode and Huston even if his character feels a bit too young to be doing the work that he is. Danny Huston in turn has always be a fascinating screen presence. Blessed and cursed with his father John Huston’s deep, growling voice and arched eyebrows he can sometimes come across as pantomimisch when subtlety is required. He he treads the fine line between playing a tortured man with a secret and Captain Haddock.
It is the dark secret Haddock, I mean… Engel carries with him and the personal lives of all the men that leaves to the problem. We shown in visions, dreams and flashbacks that these men all have something to get home to. But in order to keep the run time short and sweet they are dispensed with in a flash giving no real sense of jeopardy to the proceedings. In fact considering that Pressure is a race against time thriller there is very little in the way of tension.
Perhaps in an effort to create a chamber drama piece Scalpello has focused more on the actors interaction with each other allowing screaming matches and technical discussion lead the film. It feels almost as though the film was initially created with this idea and then producers tried to bring in more scenes of deep water diving to try and crank up the thriller elements. What we get is lots of pretty scenes of men swimming in the dark but ultimately a placid thriller and slightly ham-fisted drama with nothing new to say for any of the genres.
A bold attempt made by a visually skillful director, hopefully with his next film he can put his eye to great script.
Frustratingly it’s also one of those films that should end at least three shots before the credits roll.
Dir: Ron Scalpello
Scr: Louis Baxter, Alan McKenna, Paul Staheli
Starring: Danny Huston, Matthew Goode, Joe Cole, Alan McKenna
Prd: Laurie Cook, Alan McKenna, Jason Newmark
DOP: Richard Mott
Music: Benjamin Willfisch
Run time: 91 mins
Pressure is available to download now and is available on DVD from 31 Aug.