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INTO THE BLUE

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Paul Walker, Jessica Alba, Scott Caan, Ashley Scott, Josh Brolin
Director:  John Stockwell
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio:  Sony
Features:  See Review
Length: 110 Minutes
Release Date:  December 26, 2005

Film ***

Into the Blue is a fairly smart and consistently entertaining yarn.  It offers a good premise, several surprises, and an ability to follow through with action and suspense that proves that giant, elaborate effects-ridden sequences aren't really necessary to thrill and excite.  Well-executed ideas and characters can be more than sufficient.

John Stockwell, who gave us the under-appreciated Blue Crush, returns to the water again, but this time, he takes us to the drama underneath the surface.  And as with Blue Crush, he continues his appreciation of gorgeous actresses in bikinis.  Jessica Alba is one of the most beautiful women alive, and Stockwell's camera photographs her luscious form so lovingly, there were several moments in the movie where I felt like I needed a cigarette.  And I don't even smoke.

It begins as a fun tale of treasure-hunting in the Bahamas.  Jared (Walker) is a down-on-his luck hunter with a leaking boat and barely a dollar to his name, but big dreams.  Sam (Alba) is his dutiful love interest, who stalwartly stands by him despite his run of misfortune.  Jared once worked for the island's leading and most well-equipped treasure hunter Bates (Brolin), who offers Jared a better chance at realizing his goals, but whom Jared turns down for ethical reasons.

His old friend Bryce (Caan), a successful lawyer, shows up with his current love interest Amanda (Scott), for some fun in the sun and on the surf.  They dive for fun, but soon come upon two very different treasures.  One might be the remains of a rich and legendary ship.  The other is a wrecked airplane filled with cocaine.

A setup for an intriguing dilemma, right?  Jared and Bryce can get the equipment they need to salvage the ship...if they unload the coke.  But if you think that's the crux of the story, you've got some surprises coming your way.  Not all is as it seems above or below the water.

I can't go too much more into the plot because the twists and turns are well thought out and satisfying.  Basically what you have is an interesting action thriller set against the backdrop of the ocean, so the story becomes enhanced by beautiful scenery and underwater photography.  It's not the most substantial stuff in the world, but it delights the eyes without insulting the brain.

The cast is enthusiastic and does a good job.  Many critics complained the movie was one long shot of Jessica Alba in her swimsuits.  Let me just say for the record that you'll NEVER hear me utter that kind of complaint.  But most of the credit belongs to Stockwell, who knows how to use his settings and the natural dangers and difficulties they present in an effective way to keep his story moving forward.

Into the Blue entertains all the way...and sometimes, that's plenty.

Video ***1/2

The anamorphic transfer serves the difficult visuals well.  The underwater scenes are frequently breathtaking, and render cleanly and crisply.  There may be a touch of noticeable grain here and there, but nothing terribly distracting.

Audio ****

The 5.1 audio is a knockout, though.  When underwater, you can hear the sounds all around you, and it definitely enhances the experience.  Dynamic range is strong thanks to the action sequences, and dialogue is easily understood throughout. 

Features ***

John Stockwell offers an insightful commentaries as the extras begin.  There are also 10 deleted scenes with optional Stockwell commentary, screen tests of the actors (I'm guessing Ms. Alba didn't require one), and a decent making-of featurette, along with some other Sony previews.

Summary:

Into the Blue is a lovely looking and surprisingly smart action adventure driven by situation and character rather than special effects.  It's an undemanding but effective slice of cinematic entertainment...and did I mention how lovely Jessica Alba looks in it?

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