Director: Ron Scalpello
Cast: Danny Huston, Matthew Goode, Joe Cole
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Head 400 metres below sea level and you’ll soon find that everything carries a lot more weight. Pressure successfully captures that feeling – often, a little too well.
Ron Scalpello’s second feature follows a team of men going down into the water to repair an oil pipeline – only for them to become separated from their ship. Personal tensions rise, oxygen levels fall and soon, the four-men group is down to three.
If all that sounds familiar, it’s because these waters have been plumbed before, from survival dramas such as 127 Hours and Buried to last year’s submarine thriller, Black Sea. There’s much to be said for such a claustrophobic set-up and Scalpello and his Director of Photography, Richard Mott, do a great job of emphasising the lack of space inside the tiny diving bell – and the dark, vast abyss that threatens to swallow them when they inevitably venture outside.
The cast navigate the known territory with conviction, from Matthew Goode’s well-meaning leader to Joe Cole’s token young newcomer, who is primed for our sympathy, thanks to his having a girlfriend and child at home. It’s Danny Huston, though, who brings the biggest heft, his gruff veteran haunted by a past that erupts halfway through a shouting match – a scene that, to the ensemble’s credit, manages to avoid being laughably melodramatic.
Louis Baxer, Alan McKenna and Paul Staheli’s script, though, sinks to heavy-handed measures to communicate its Serious Emotions, inserting cliched flashbacks and monologues without pausing for breath. The result threatens to capsize the efforts of the actors. Highly pressurised confrontations can make for gripping cinema. Sometimes, though, the pressure can be turned up a little too high.