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The Big Blue

The Big Blue (1988)

August. 19,1988
| Adventure Drama Romance

Two men answer the call of the ocean in this romantic fantasy-adventure. Jacques and Enzo are a pair of friends who have been close since childhood, and who share a passion for the dangerous sport of free diving. Professional diver Jacques opted to follow in the footsteps of his father, who died at sea when Jacques was a boy; to the bewilderment of scientists, Jacques harbors a remarkable ability to adjust his heart rate and breathing pattern in the water, so that his vital signs more closely resemble that of dolphins than men. As Enzo persuades a reluctant Jacques to compete against him in a free diving contest -- determining who can dive deeper and longer without scuba gear -- Jacques meets Johana, a beautiful insurance investigator from America, and he finds that he must choose between his love for her and his love of the sea.


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Two childhood friends who are free divers, one of whom has the almost supernatural ability to adjust his heart rate so that his vital signs are closer to a dolphins than a human, meet up after many years and take part in a contest to see who can dive the deepest without scuba gear. Love and friendship vie with the competitive spirit and the allure of the ocean to complicate matters.The Big Blue is another product of the 80's French film movement, the cinéma du look. These films were typified by their adherence to cinematic style over dramatic substance. Director Luc Besson was one of the leading film-makers in this category and The Big Blue is perhaps his most personal film. It is slightly unusual for a Besson movie in that it isn't action-oriented in the traditional sense. The sport angle does of course have an element of drama but it's never really the focus at all and there isn't truthfully much tension in these scenes really. The story essentially focuses on a man who makes a choice between the friendship of a peer, the love of a woman or the elemental draw of the sea. The latter choice wins out quite clearly with the central character having an almost spiritual infinity with the ocean. Some of the underwater sequences here are beautifully presented and the cinematography in general is nice. It's a good looking film, yet despite being about deep water divers it does have a certain lack of depth dramatically. This isn't necessarily an issue for me but it does mean that it's two-an-a-half hour runtime does seem definitely excessive. This is not a story that required the epic treatment to be honest. Acting performances are generally good enough to engage though. Rosanna Arquette appears in a fairly under-written role but I thought she was still quite adorable and only went to serve further the oddness of the central character's decision in rejecting her for a life with the dolphins. On this note, we have an interesting and somewhat depressing ending which veers into dream-like fantasy territory - it's a bit of a downer of a denouncement, yet it is true to the material so I shouldn't complain too much over this. Ultimately, this is definitely an uneven and overlong movie but, like most of the others in the cinéma du look sub-genre, it improves with a re-watch and is certainly somewhat distinctive.


When one sees that a film is directed by Luc Besson, has music by Eric Serra and that it has Jean Reno, it is hard not to expect a lot. 'The Big Blue' meets the high expectations, if just falling short of exceeding them, while it is a very divisive film and it's not one of my favourites it is a beautiful film and really quite stunning at its best.'The Big Blue' does fare better in the friendship than the love story. The love story has some sweet and touching moments but it is on the shallow and sketchy side. This would have been made better if more thought was put into Rosanna Arquette's character, if she was made more endearing and that she was better developed. Instead the character felt almost like an afterthought at first and Arquette didn't do much for me sadly.Regarding 'The Big Blue's' story, it generally, while full of enough things to make the film worth sticking with, is a bit thin for such a long length.However, the friendship has a lot of charm and warmth, with sprinkles of humour and nostalgia. Besson's direction often is masterly, with an amazing eye for style and visual beauty and he really does bring out the best of his actors. Excluding Arquette, which was largely actually because of the way the character was written (people may be tired of hearing this as an excuse when actors/actresses give not so good performances when working with not so well written characters but actually to me it is a valid one), the acting is very good. The obvious standout is a superb and often very funny Jean Reno, but handsome Jean-Marc Barr also shows why he was deserving of a bigger career.Eric Serra's music score is a big asset, soothing, understated and hauntingly hypnotic. There is a good deal of charm, also humour and poignancy in the writing.Best of all when it comes to 'The Big Blue' is the cinematography and the underwater scenes. The scenery is also exquisite. There are many visually beautiful films out there, beautiful doesn't do the sensational cinematography justice. Haven't seen a film with cinematography this good in a while and while Besson's films are all very well made 'The Big Blue' is a very strong contender for his best-looking film. The film to me contains the finest underwater sequences in film, poetic and tear-jerking and the ocean has rarely looked so magnificent and it was clear the camera was in love with it. One moment particularly stands out, the first plunge into the mysterious blackness is simply cinema at its most magical.In summary, while it didn't quite blow me away 'The Big Blue' is an incredibly well done film. 8/10 Bethany Cox


Before a reviewer pans a movie, you should know something about that person...I enjoy avant garde and foreign movies. Especially movies that are not the typical Hollywood block buster.The Big Blue isn't a typical Hollywood movie, it's a French produced film. It's a meandering, tedious 2 hours and 48 minutes of pointless scenes, that have no reason for being spliced into the film other than the director shot them.The idea of the movie would seem to be a winner: Two men who love free diving and have known and competed with each other since childhood are engaged in a dangerous contest to break the world's record in free diving. Sounds good but...The movie misses the mark by a mile. The acting, if you can call it that is ridiculous. The characters seem to be in some state of daze and behave in a unbelievable manner. And the script? It seems to have been written without any skill level at all.Rosanna Arquette and Jean-Marc Barr characters might be the stupidest written characters in cinema. Which is sad for both the actors, if they had been given some sort of a decent script to work with, they might have looked better.


At first, the reason why I chose to watch this film was the beautiful movie poster that was portrayed like a commercial advertisement about the sea made by a travel agency. No wonder the poster was nominated as a Best Poster Award at the Cesar Awards France in 1989.Luc Besson is a great director. In this film he didn't disappoint me at all. He became a household name in the same year. This story is based on his childhood dream. Due to his parents who worked as diving instructors, he dreamed of being a dolphin trainer. He grew up near the shore of the Mediterranean. This experience affected the movie a lot and made the unbelievable atmosphere. In the last scene with a dolphin, he put an extraordinary visual element into the movie. And also the soundtrack is one of the wonderful aspects in this movie.The music deserved to get a Cesar Award as a best sound in 1989.Johana (Rosanna Arquette), Jacques (Jean-Mark Barr), Enjo (Jean Reno) are the 3 main characters who conflict emotions with each other and lead the story to the end. The dolphins and the ocean are also the main elements to understand Jacques who is going through mental problem caused by his father's death. He looks lonesome but composed. He needs friends to share his dreams and worries with, but once somebody gets close to him, he runs away from them and goes to the water and dolphins. He doesn't seem to know how to get along with people. On the contrast dolphins look like his sole friends. Jacques and Enjo are childhood friends but also rivals in many ways. If Enjo devotes all his energies to diving so as to access to success and glory, the sea is more than this for Jacques. He was born with it, and the sea will lead him to death. When his rival Enjo dies at the competition, he is in agony and sends him to the sea where he loves. The ocean means all this to Jacques. I'm scared to be in the dark like in the deep dark ocean, but Jacques looks very comfortable and happy with dolphins under the deep dark ocean. The calm and peaceful music makes the scenes under the water astonishing. Music and his move with dolphins make a good combination. Johana is quite logical and sensible as a magazine reporter but she is getting emotional and feels sorry for Jacques. That makes her hard to concentrate on her job about the divers. But she can't help it but falls in love with him.If you're a big fan of Hollywood theatrical releases, you might not love it with no action, no chases, no dangerous cliffhangers, no guns and no explosions. It doesn't even has bad guys. It's more than a love story, or a friendship. You'll be happy when Jacques and Johanna finally love each other, you feel how the ocean is beautiful and peaceful when Jacques dives with the dolphins and you'll cry with Johanna when he doesn't come back. And yes, for him, it's the best of endings, because he doesn't belong here, he really belongs more to the sea than to us.This film is quite different from Hollywood movies, but there are some aspects to attract us to watch more than once. You can think about your life, love and family. It'll help you understand other European movies also.