Dark Tide (2012)

The default position on most Hollywood films these days is "Why on Earth did they make this?" On rare occasions we get a film, where we sincerely have to question the mental health of those responsible for bringing it to the screen. And then, on very, very rare occasions, we get a terminator movie. You know what a terminator movie is, right? It's one of those movies that seems to reach back through time and retroactively destroy the filmmakers' careers. Whatever brilliant movies those people were involved with previously, or however much you loved them, it doesn't matter. Those good experiences are now gone, and all that remains is pure, raw hate.

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 Concept

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.

The Relationship

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.

The Meat

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.

The Rich

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.


Haywire (2011)

Steven Soderbergh's well-known modus operandi - one for the studio, one for himself - comes to a grinding halt with Haywire, a film made for nobody.

The idea was simple enough: Let's take a girl with unparalleled kick-ass ability - MMA fighter Gina Carano - and build a film around her. Let's make a B-film, an action-fest, but let's do it with style. This girl can hold her own in the ring, let's give her a chance to hold her own on camera. The story doesn't need to be complicated. Something about a black ops independent contractor, Mallory Kane, who gets double-crossed and takes revenge on her employers. Lot's of super cool, secret agent, kick-assery ensues.

That was a good idea. Too bad that's not the film Soderbergh actually made.

Let's deal with the style first.

Soderbergh shoots his own movies and has done so for some time, under the pseudonym Peter Andrews. I usually like his style, but something went wrong with Haywire. It's shot on video, and looks that way too. A faded, cheap look.

The action scenes should be front and center here, the high point of the movie, but they're strangely underwhelming. Oh sure, it's cool that we can see it really is Carano fighting. Soderbergh keeps his takes long, so we get a good look at the moves, but the rhythm is off, the moves aren't as cool as they should be. Often the fights don't make sense, on a blow-by-blow basis, and to be perfectly frank, some of them look like stage fights.

On top of that Soderbergh has decided to revisit his jumping-around-in-time-while-new-age-jazz-plays-in-the-background-because-this-is-really-hip style of editing, most prominent in a film like The Limey (which I never made it through, because of this style). Only bagpipes and jackets for dogs are more infuriating.

Now for the story.

In order for us to accept a film like this, with all its preposterous action set-pieces, the story must be simple and clear. This is not Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, there can't be any muddled storytelling, we need to be able to focus all our attention on the action. Unfortunately half of the film is built around an annoying flashback structure, and it's never really clear what the missions are, or whose side everybody is on. I get the sense that Soderbergh thinks it doesn't matter because "this is just an action film". Mr. Soderbergh is mistaken. He's slumming it in a genre far more complicated than he gives it credit for.

The characters' behavior is also without rhyme or reason. These are supposed to be professionals. I can't stand films where I'm told the characters are "top notch cool whatever", and then they act like blithering idiots, in order for the plot to work. If they really were as cool as promised, the film would never happen. The "top notch" agents in Haywire act completely illogically, with a stunning lack of tactical knowhow and problem-solving abilities.

And the story is slow, oh so slow. There are so many long boring scenes where nothing happens. So many scenes promise a climax or a revelation they're completely unable to deliver.

And finally there's Gina Carano. Now, this girl is SMOKING. Unbelievably so. And even though the fight scenes are rather clumsy, you can tell she's the real deal. But an actress she's not. Not even close. It's not that she's a bad actress, it's that she isn't one. At all. That's rather unfortunate, since Haywire is her movie.


I'm sorry Mr. Soderbergh, if you thought you could make a cool action movie with one hand tied to your back you were sorely mistaken. Better men have tried this and failed. It takes skill to make a good action movie, but it also takes skill to make a good B-movie. It's a lot harder than it looks. Next time, pick a girl who can act, get a better story, and put a little more effort into the look.

Face the fact that this one grabbed you by the neck, strangled you until you were blue, kicked you in the nuts, and put a pillow over your head to muffle the sound of the final gunshot. But don't worry, you work in Hollywood, where one can always get a second chance. If you had lived in Mallory Kane's world, you'd be in cold storage by now.


Die Another Day (2002)


James Bond (Pierce Brosnan) is disavowed by MI6 after being captured and tortured in North Korea.

Subsequently he heads off on a personal vendetta to kill the Korean Zao (Rick Yune), one of the men responsible for his predicament. The mission leads him to Cuba, where he meets saucy agent Jinx (Halle Berry). Eventually the trail leads to international playboy and millionaire Gustav Graves (Toby Stephens). Ostensibly a perfect, driven specimen of Western capitalism, Graves is not what he appears to be, and the space-based Icarus program he's currently developing probably isn't either. Bond sets the course for Iceland, to investigate Graves, and soon has his hands full. In more ways than one, nudge-nudge.

This time Bond, doesn't flirt with Moneypenny, the secretary. She does get to make out with him, but alas this is just a holographic training program. Meanwhile the real Bond sleeps with operatives from two different agencies: Miranda Frost (Rosamund Pike), a colleague from MI6, and the aforementioned Jinx, from NSA.

This is also the film with the invisible car.


Gustav Graves, who wants to - sigh - control the entire world with his amazing new technology. His goofy grin and superior fencing skills are apparently not enough to threaten the world into submission.

Then there's Zao, whose face has been scarred by the initial encounter with Bond. He's got diamonds stuck in his face. Why he doesn't just pick them out is unclear, maybe it's because diamonds are forever? Just a thought.

Also, there's someone who betrayed Bond when he was originally captured. This person will also have an important part to play, but I don't want to spoil anything.


I'm a little ambivalent about Die Another Day. On one hand it's a gorgeous, sprawling, big budget action movie - exactly the kind I love. On the other hand it's so detached from reality that it should probably be labeled as science fiction or fantasy, rather than as an action movie.

The overall globetrotting style of the film is the only thing that works perfectly. The story takes us to Korea, Cuba, China, England, and Iceland. The locations are vasty different and very interesting. There's the monochromatic look of the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea, the bright warm colors of Havana, and the white snow-covered surfaces of Iceland. Bond even returns to london, to an abandoned underground train-station, which conceals a secret MI6 office.

We'll ease our way into "the bad" by way of the bad guy Gustav Graves, who's suitably sleazy and obnoxious. Bond is introduced to him in a fencing club, and the following duel between them is fantastic. They pretty much trash the entire place, trying to get the upper hand. Unfortunately Toby Stephens' portrayal of Graves goes downhill from there. It's not entirely his fault, though. He's stuck with a character whose big plan involves a giant laser in space, world domination, and an Iron Man-like suit (clearly we're in an Austin Powers film). What can he do, but laugh manically and twirl his invisible mustache?

This leads us into an even more problematic area, with the introduction of the DNA altering technique used by the bad guys. A special gene-therapy, which can change your appearance, down to the microscopic level. Listen, you can't alter your DNA. Believing you can is a fundamental misunderstanding of the real world. This is not just a throwaway gag, the entire plot is riding on this. Then of course there's the invisible car. James Bond is not usually a stickler for scientific accuracy, but this really stretches movie-reality to a breaking point. Bond's new car actually has a Star Trek-style cloaking function. It's physically impossible to create something like that, especially using the technique described in the film. And once again this is not just a funny gadget, the car plays a crucial part in several scenes in the film. Speaking of Star Trek, at one point in the film Bond trains in a simulation, which can only be described as a holodeck - a photo-real virtual reality device, where he can hone his super agent skills. Later there's a fist-fight which is complicated by a runaway laser-beam.

It's impossible to defend the film beyond this point. I could have accepted one of these missteps, but a DNA machine, an invisible car, laser-beams and a holodeck is too much for one damn movie, unless it tales place on the bloody Enterprise. And I haven't even covered the abundance of physically impossible action scenes, like Bond surfing CGI waves in Iceland, or driving his car backwards and upside down (!), while firing rockets and guns.

Many regard Die Another Day as the ultimate meltdown of the modern Bond movie, and a total failure on every level. I disagree, I think it works on some levels, except for all the really important ones. I like watching Die Another Day, because it's stupid and over the top, but you won't hear any objections from me if you hate this movie with the white-hot intensity of a thousand suns. Most people do.

And so we bid farewell to Pierce Brosnan's take on Bond. Too bad he never got a chance to redeem himself. After this the franchise was rebooted, and a completely different Bond emerged. Daniel Craig has the potential to be the best Bond of them all, if he manages to make a second good Bond film that is. At this point Brosnan is still my favorite.


The World is Not Enough (1999)


James Bond (Pierce Brosnan) participates in the recovery of a large sum of money. The money later turns out to be laced with explosives, when they're detonated inside the MI6 offices, killing Sir Robert King, an oil tycoon and personal friend of M (Judi Dench).

MI6 fears for the safety of Electra (Sophie Marceau), King's daughter, who's now running her father's company, so Bond is dispatched to protect her. He comes across a plot to sabotage an oil pipeline the company is currently building, and it turns out that the man behind the plot is notorious terrorist Renard (Robert Carlyle) as Bond suspected. But there's more to this case than meets the eye.

Of course Bond flirts with Moneypenny, the secretary. He sleeps with his doctor, to get a clean bill of health. He sleeps with Electra, because he wants to. And he he sleeps with a nuclear scientist, Dr. Christmas Jones (Denise Richards), because he's James Bond. He also gets a cool anti-avalanche jacket from Q.

(Now a word of warning. There will be spoilers from this point on.)


Renard, the terrorist, and his mysterious friend, who turns out to be (fair warning) the very same woman Bond was sent to protect. They plan to make a lot of trouble, kill a lot of people, and most importantly, punish MI6. It's a great plan.

Danish Ulrich Thomsen shows up as a brown stain in the floor - excuse me - as a henchmen, and there are a few other assorted bad guys, but none of them manage to make an impression compared to the lead duo.


Revenge is at the heart of this 19th official James Bond movie. Though not quite in the same vein as in License to Kill. The central plot concerning the threat to the pipeline is not  even that important, this is personal, and there's something far bigger at stake here. We already get that sense in the pre-credit sequence, when a forceful and slick Bond takes charge of the previously mentioned money recovery, casually killing a bunch of people with ruthless efficiency. When we learn that Electra was kidnapped by Renard, and M was involved in the situation, more revenge motives bubble to the surface. The revelation that Electra and Renard work together only raises the stakes, as we're left wondering which one of them corrupted the other.

Sophie Marceau plays the part of Electra to perfection. There's something strange and lethal hidden behind her fake smile, and for once 007 is truly blindsided by save-the-vulnerable-girl syndrome, an almost fatal mistake. Turns out that the man we thought we should fear - Renard, who can't feel pain, because he's got a bullet in the brain - is merely the muscles of the union. Robert Carlyle even manages to make us almost sympathetic to Renard's hopeless situation. Not enough to challenge our allegiance to Bond, obviously, but enough to make him human, and not just another maniac hellbent on world war.

These two are probably my favorite Bond bad guys ever.

The rest of the cast is equally good, but I believe it's time to throw a little love at the character Q, played by Desmond Llewelyn. In almost every James Bond movie since the franchise begun he's been around to supply cool gadget to Bond. This movie was his last. Llewelyn was killed in a car crash shortly after the movie opened. First, though, he gets to introduce his replacement ("I want to introduce you to the young fellow I'm grooming to follow me" - enter John Cleese as "R"), and he also gets to impart his final bit of wisdom to Bond, before disappearing into the floor with a strangely melancholic look on his face. Did he know this was his last performance? Q and Llewelyn was an integral part of Bond. He's going to be missed.

I guess we also have to address the gorgeous fake-breasted elephant in the room. I have a feeling that people would probably be a little easier on this film, had it not been for Dr. Christmas Jones. Big-chested bimbo Denise Richards as a nuclear scientist? Come on. Suspending the disbelief is nowhere near enough, we'll have to blast it into space, to buy this character. But what if they had made her a gorgeous assistant to a horny old professor instead? The professor gets killed, and she has to step in, knowing just enough about her field to be useful to Bond? Could that have made it easier to accept? Either way this character is often cited as the deal-breaker for many people.

In terms of action, though, there should be little doubt about this film's effectiveness. The speedboat chase through the English channel is a classic Bond sequence, full of great energy and over the top stunts. The moment where the boat is temporarily submerged, and Bond still finds the time to adjust his tie, is a favorite. Then there's the ski sequence, where Bond must escape flying, shooting assassins, while everything explodes around him, and let's not forget the helicopter-with-giant-saw-blades attack, or the preposterous finale aboard a nuclear submarine, which is quite exiting, and not just because Dennis Richards is wearing a tight, wet T-shirt! Now, of course none of it makes any sense, but it's such a thrill ride, and I'm literally laughing out loud and clapping my hands in excitement every time the movie launches into another crazy action scene.

The World is Not Enough has a bad reputation. That's really unfair. It's a good action movie. A fun, engaging spy mission, with an actual mystery. GoldenEye may be my favorite Bond on paper, but this is the one it takes the least amount of effort to put in the player again.

"I always wanted Christmas in Turkey!" Me too.