Divers stranded deep underwater in ‘Pressure’

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Four deep sea saturation divers become stranded 650ft below the surface of the Indian Ocean after disaster strikes their ship. With the air in their bodies compressed to withstand the depth, surfacing too fast without decompressing is unthinkable and will lead to almost certain death. With their diving bell damaged, rescue uncertain and oxygen depleting they are forced to work together to fight for their survival and ultimately find a way back to the surface.

It’s gripping and suspenseful, adeptly building tension as the back stories of the main characters unfold in surprising ways. When people are put in untenable positions, survival can bring out the best and worst of all of us.

Danny Huston, Matthew Goode, Joe Cole and Alan McKenna are the scuba-diving sailors, each cursed with a hardened core. Each character emotes a sense of psychotic behavior.

Reaching the bottom of the Somali Basin, a four-man saturation dive team prepare for work, servicing an oil pipeline at the bottom of the ocean. Jones the smart rookie, Hurst (Alan McKenna) the fast-living joker, Mitchell (Matthew Goode) the leader and stickler for protocol, and Engel, enigmatic and remote, make their final checks before heading out, unaware of the severity of a storm above water.

Turbulence hits the bell, and the team are radioed to prepare for their ascent as the storm hits their support vessel above. Mid-ascent everything stops; the bell lurches and begins to free fall, hitting the bottom of the ocean, and leaving the bell systems operating on emergency support. Engel swims out to assess the damage and discovers wreckage on the ocean floor; the ship is down. With no support boat above, they argue over the best way to ensure survival.

Mitchell insists on securing the bell, but if the rescue boat does not reach them in time, they will die. Engel (Danny Houston) believes they should float the bell, but Mitchell worries about the structural integrity after the accident, insisting they wait. Danger lies all around; the near freezing water outside, unendurable for long without hypothermia setting in; the decompression sickness if they ascend, lungs rupturing in the most unimaginable pain; and on top of all this, the diminishing air supply, without which they will all die.

Hope comes in the form of radio contact with a Chinese ship requesting their co- ordinates but communication is lost and the peril persists. Mitchell takes charge, instructing Hurst to assist him in securing the bell. Mitchell’s umbilical gets aged, cutting off his breathing gas and communication system.

As he struggles to breathe, Hurst races towards him but is unable to detach the umbilical. The malfunctioning commas spark into action; Engel hearing Mitchell in danger dives into the water to drag Mitchell to safety back inside the bell. It quickly emerges that Hurst cannot use his hands properly – a side effect from years of diving – and has been unfit to do his job for some time.

Determined to prove his worth, Hurst sneaks out of the bell in an attempt to find the sunken ship and bring back vital breathing gas.

Ignoring Mitchell’s orders to return, Hurst pursues the wreckage; running out of heat, he starts falling into the throws of hypothermia. Worried about the continuing waste on air, knowing it’s too late to save him, Jones (Joe Cole) makes the decision to turn off Hurst’s breathing supply. Jones analyses a map of the seabed and determines that if they follow the pipeline, they will find emergency gas; Engel volunteers for the mission. Time and heat rapidly diminishing, he finally locates the canisters but exhausts his body to the limit. As Engel begins to lose the fight for life, Mitchell reacts fast, and swims out to help him, hauling both Engel and a canister back to the bell. Mitchell forces CPR to save the unconscious Engel, as he splutters back into life, gulping air into his starving lungs.

The radio crackles to life with contact from HMS Marlborough, but without co-ordinates the chances of the ship locating the bell by sonar is time conditional. In a desperate effort to make their location known, Mitchell swims towards the surface as far as his umbilical can reach holding a GPS beacon. Before he can activate the device he is engulfed by a swarm of jellyfish. Batting the creatures away, his hand slips, and the beacon escapes before he has the chance to activate. Still determined, Mitchell takes a deep breath, ripping off his umbilical, and chases the disappearing beacon. Grabbing hold, he must remove his glove to activate it; he’s successful, but with his hand badly stung by the jellyfish, and his umbilical disconnected, he falls through the ocean to his death. Now only Jones and Engel remain, awaiting further communications from HMS Marlborough. They have located the beacon, but it will still be hours before they can commence a full rescue, and there’s not enough breathing gas left. Engel makes the decision to float the diving bell. As it ascends the wreckage below snaps the umbilical, and the bell is stopped. The only option remaining is to swim to the surface, a near impossible dive. With only one helmet remaining, Engel demands Jones makes the dive, essentially giving up his life in exchange.

Trepidation and suspense set in as Jones makes the ascent, struggling to switch from his umbilical to a breathing tank. Engel guides Jones via the communications, and he finally breaks the surface. The rescue boat charges towards Jones and hauls his exhausted body into the hyperbaric chamber. The reality of the situation hits Engel, and he accepts his fate.

Released and distributed by Captive Cinema, Pressure opens on October 21, 2015 in cinemas nationwide.

 

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