When a short-notice, urgent job crops up – to repair a broken oil pipeline on the bed of the Indian Ocean, four deep sea divers rise to the challenge. With a pre-established animosity between Engel (Danny Huston) and Hurst (Alan McKenna), it’s down to their captain Mitchell (Matthew Goode) and youngster Jones (Joe Cole) to ensure a steady ship. However when they become trapped 650 feet beneath the surface, a frantic bid for survival ensues, as they wait anxiously to be rescued, while oxygen supplies slowly start to diminish…
In a film of this nature, drawing similarities to the likes of Gravity or The Perfect Storm, it’s imperative that you form a close bond with the protagonists, to ensure you root fervently for their survival. However in Pressure you aren’t overly fussed as to whether they make it out alive or not, in spite of the hackneyed flashbacks and visions of their respective partners, which just feel too elementary and contrived in their conviction. Perhaps more time could be spent in the opening act, prior to the disaster, to establish the characters more substantially, to give them more personality, and nuance.
It’s a shame that Pressure makes for such an emotionally disengaging piece, because there remains plenty to be admired. Such as Scalpello’s camerawork, which is so rarely still throughout the endeavour, it’s always swaying slightly, as though we’re on a boat – enhancing not only the nautical theme, but allowing for a more immersive experience, as you feel as though you’re trapped alongside the characters. This adds to the uneasy atmosphere, which is haunting and intimidating. The ocean just makes for such a wonderful setting, and a formidable antagonist that will always win. The vast immensity of it is so serene, and yet so daunting, with a breathtaking sense of eternity, while the helplessness of our protagonists and their vulnerability is frightening.
However, a good setting means very little when the screenplay is not up to scratch, and regrettably that’s where Pressure falls short. This is particularly the case when the characters intend on being profound, which comes across as being just too mawkish. Such as when Cole looks into the distance, recalling his pregnant girlfriend’s disdain for hospitals. “She says they smell like loss”, he says, pensively. It’s just awkward and not naturally dramatic, not quite working. Which, sadly, is indicative of the entire project.