While trauma can certainly change a person, Hollywood continues to make it the motivation de jour. When the industry overuses a concept, it becomes much easier to spot the films that struggle to tell authentic stories. The latest Lionsgate film, Into the Deep, truly believes in its story. However, with poorly written exchanges, questionable performances, and inexplicable logic, the thriller cannot stay afloat.
Years after her mother drowned, Jess (Ella-Rae Smith) heads back to the beach. She wants to party with friends and get away from the troubles with her dad. She meets a seemingly nice guy, Ben (Mathew Daddario), and the two begin a passionate affair. However, when Lexie (Jaime Alexander) crashes her jet ski into the side of his boat, the fantastical connection begins to unravel.
Directed by Kate Cox, Into the Deep struggles from scene one. A consistent montage of near-drownings haunt Jess at every turn, but they come across as extraneous footage from another movie. The camera does few favors in helping the film stand out, but at least these shots are somewhat visually exciting.
Far more damaging to the film, Jess feels like an oblivious and selfish character as soon as we meet her. She pushes away her dad for having a relationship years after her mother’s death. She runs away with a guy that might as well be throwing red flags at her. Perhaps worst of all, she seems malleable to a fault. As she sways allegiances throughout the film, she becomes a tough character to root for in a game with such high stakes.
Into the Deep also contains a plot that seems engineered to be controversial. However, the film seems to believe in its own ideas even less, and half-heartedly pursues its questions. This is probably for the best, as the ideas pitched at the audience are upsetting. The film contains a narrative that makes you question the guilt of a likely rapist. Later, it tries to paint a woman riddled with trauma as the villain. Far worse, Into the Deep seems to understand these are bad ideas, and instead tries to backtrack on them in the final act.
Without much in to be excited by visually, the wooden performances from the three leads stand out. The characters all seem to hold secrets about each other, but instead throw caution to the wind and put themselves in harms way. The actors play their characters with wildly different reactions to scenarios. It feels as if each performer was asked to spin a wheel to discover their character motivations before each scene. This makes it impossible for the audience to gain any insight into them, and as a result leaves us ostracized.
While Into the Deep has a premise that might have worked, this film does not. It is both difficult to get excited about, and struggles with basic storytelling beats. It runs an already ragged trope about trauma into the ground while giving us no reasons to care. If you’re looking for thrills, there are far more nuanced and exciting films to queue up on a Friday night.