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The movie starts off with an airplane flying over the Bahamas at night during a violent thunderstorm. The foreign passengers are delivering something (There are mysterious stacks of red packages in the hull.) Suddenly lightening strikes the plane and it crashes into the ocean.
Then we jump ahead a few days later and meet Jared (Paul Walker), a beach bum who works in the Bahamas as a scuba diving instructor and is monitoring tourists as they dive off a boat. He gets into an argument with his boss and eventually shoves him in the water. He is fired. We then meet Sam (Jessica Alba), Jared's loyal girlfriend. She works at a resort on the island as a shark handler and is giving tourists info on shark behavior when we meet her.
Sam returns home to Jared's leaky boat, to find Jared trying to cook something on the stove, and he is bailing water out of the boat when she sees him. She tells him the last time he tried to cook something was when he quit his job. Jared admits the he was fired from his job. They talk, and we quickly learn Jared's passion is diving, with the small hope of finding treasure of any kind. When he does find this treasure they will finally have better lives. He also reminds her (they apparently recently had a big tropical storm on the island) that hurricanes sometimes churn up years of sand and expose treasure that's been covered for years. They begin fooling around, when another ship pulls up to the dock right next to them. It's Bates, a fisherman and fellow "treasure seeker." He says he heard Jared got fired from his job, and wants to know if Jared wants to come work for him. Jared politely passes up the offer.
The next day Sam and Jared go to the airport and meet Jared's old friend, Bryce, a high-powered lawyer who's brought along his latest fling, Amanda (An outgoing, ditzy, and occasionally annoying blonde), whom he's only known for fourteen hours. Bryce is a jokester, and can also be a greedy jerk. Bryce tells Jared that he recently helped a rich client win his court case, and the client was so grateful that he gave Bryce access to his yacht and expensive beach pad.
The gang stops by the beach house, and take a look around, then they head out to go have fun with the boat. After Bryce and Jared show off a bit on their jet-skies, they all return to the boat and go diving.
After a long sequence of the gang diving and exploring the coral reefs and wildlife, they start to return to the boat. Jared's wristwatch suddenly slides off his wrist. Jared surfaces for air. Bryce, from the boat, begins shouting at Jared and pleading with him to get out of the water, because of the sharks swimming around in the water. He just laughs, and Sam isn't worried either, and tosses him some scuba gear to retrieve his watch.
Jared dives down and spots his watch on the sandy bottom. He swims down and is about to snatch it when he sees something next to his watch, sticking out of the sand. A bottle. He examines the bottle then grabs his watch. Jared finds several more pieces of wood and more similar debris. Jared keeps swimming and finds parts of an old shipwreck. He swims around some more and finds pieces of painted wood. He follows a trail of debris through a field of seaweed, and at the end finds the plane from the beginning of the movie down in a trench.
He surfaces and tells Bryce and the others about the plane. They all head down with scuba gear. Bryce and Jared find the red packages in the hull of the plane. They slice one open and white powder comes out. They surface with a few of the packages. They then debate what to do about the cocaine. Bryce wants to find a way to sell it. Amanda does too. Jared is torn, and Sam completely objects. They start to leave. Sam starts throwing the cocaine off the boat, Bryce stops her when she's about to toss they last package of cocaine, and tries to convince her not to. Jared sides with Sam and tosses the cocaine in the water, and they leave.
Back at the expensive pad, they try to decide on what to do. Jared is more concerned about the shipwreck he found and says that they have to search for more items and relics to identify the wreck in order to make a claim on it. Bryce and Amanda are more concerned about the plane and think the cocaine money from the plane can also help finance their shipwreck expedition (for the expensive scuba gear etc.). Jared agrees. Sam does as well, on the condition that they soon report the bodies in the plane and the plane wreck.
They go back and start diving at the shipwreck site. Jared finds a piece of wood, marked "Zephyr." Later at the house, Jared tells everyone that this proves the shipwreck is the infamous ancient ship that sank in 1891, which is rumored to have had millions of dollars worth of treasure in it. The basic story of the Zephyr is that a rich French merchant in New Orleans owned it. It was taken over by a former slave turned pirate, named Thorpe. Thorpe fell in love with the merchant's daughter. The merchant and the rest of the family was set free, but the daughter was actually in love with Thorpe, so the two sailed off for the Bahamas, where they purposely sunk the ship, to throw the merchant off their trail. This also is symbolic to the movie, because Sam says the story is romantic and that Jared should give up the treasure hunting/plane excavating thing for her, like Thorpe did for the daughter.
We now begin several diving expeditions. On one, Bryce and Jared catch two thugs red-handed searching their yacht while they where diving in the wreckage. They sneak on board, rough up the thugs, and chase them off. But one of the thugs left behind a baseball cap with Bates' fishing company's name on it. Bates is on to them, and he's apparently not as friendly as previously thought.
Jared returns to the mainland, approaches Bates, and basically asks why he's following them. Bates acts pretty vague, but basically hints that he knows what they found, and the competition is on.
From then on there are several diving expedition to the shipwrecks, and it's clear that other people now know about the plane and shipwreck. Throughout, Sam tries to convince Jared to give up on it all. But Bryce and Amanda go behind their backs. Late one night, they sneak out steal some cargo from the plane and make a deal with a shady nightclub owner, named Primo, and use him as their connection.
But of course, Primo isn't that generous or honest. Primo is in contact with the plane and the cocaine's rightful owner, Reyes. Reyes and Primo want Bryce, Amanda, and now Jared to retrieve all the cocaine in 12 hours, or (as he tells Jared) he'll start to hurt the people he loves (meaning an oblivious Sam).
Jared tries to convince Sam to come along. (If I remember clearly they and Primo were going down for a quick dive to the Zephyr shipwreck, one more time. Bryce apparently told him about the shipwreck to hold off and stall some more time for them to get all the cocaine) And she refuses, telling him that he's more important to her "...than the prospect of any treasure." Jared tries to plead with her, but she storms off.
Underwater at the Zephyr site, Jared, Bryce, and Amanda, as well as Reye's men all comb over the wreckage. Suddenly a shark attacks Amanda. Bryce and Jared and the men take Amanda to the surface and to the boat, where we see she has a significant-sized chunk of her leg missing.
We cut to a hospital where Bryce waits outside the ER doors. The doctors shake their heads and give Bryce sympathetic looks. Sam arrives at the hospital, hugs Jared, and tells Bryce she's sorry etc....
The three leave the hospital, and argue about what to do now. Sam wants to forget everything about the plane (I also think that Sam doesn't know about Reyes demanding that Jared and Bryce retrieve all the cocaine- "...or else", the shipwreck etc. Bryce of course still refuses to give up. Just then Jared gets a call on his cell. It's Reyes, asking if they have his cocaine yet, because the 12 hours are up. Jared tells him there were complications, and they don't have it yet. Then Jared realizes Reye's henchmen are following them. A car chase ensues. They eventually end up down a narrow alley. Jared smashes into a woman's car, and she gets out furious. Jared backs up, and hits the henchmen's car. He then gets out and tells Bryce to drive off with Sam. Jared "surrenders." He walks to the henchmen's car, and they grab him.
The henchmen take Jared out to Reye's boat. The henchmen and Jared are shocked to find, Reyes/Primo and his whole gang and crew murdered. Jared is ordered to the floor, while the henchman heads downstairs to check things out. Downstairs, the henchman is shot and killed instantly. Jared gets suspicious after several minutes, and heads downstairs. He find's the henchman's body, and suddenly a door flings open. It's Bates (The tables have turned again, and Bates is Jared's one and only threat now) Jared flees back upstairs, and onto the dock. He beats up one of Bates' crewman, and dives off the side of the boat. Bates orders his men to stop shooting into the water. Jared swims underwater and surfaces several yards from the boat. Bates spots him, and they head after him. A sequence ensues, with Bates chasing Jared all over, trying to run over him. At one point Jared grabs onto the front of their boat and hitches a ride. He then escapes.
Back on the mainland. Sam orders Bryce to stop the car and wait, while she goes and asks a friend for help. Bryce is impatient and after a few minutes drives off.
Inside her cop friend Roy's house, she tells him the whole messy story. (It unclear his exact relationship with her, how they met, we only briefly met him earlier when he almost caught Bryce, Jared, Sam and Amanda excavating the shipwreck/plane site.) He is silent a moment, overwhelmed. Then tells her he'll call a friend of his that he thinks can help her out. Eventually, the man shows up - it's Bates.
Jared hooks back up with Bryce and gets into a fight with him about getting him and Sam into the whole thing in the first place. Jared gets another cell phone call. It's Bates, with a duck-taped Sam with him on his boat. Roy is also there, apparently having betrayed her. (Apparently Roy knew/was friends with/was secretly working with Bates, thus another backstabbing of characters in the movie) Bates tells Jared and Bryce to come out to his boat immediately, or he'll kill Sam. They hang up. Bates then betrays Roy, when he says they should let Sam go, and he want some of the cocaine money as well. Bates shoots and kills him. Sam freaks. Bates leans in close to her and says if he weren't so nice he would kill her right now.
Jared arrives at the boat and Bates takes him to Sam who is now handcuffed to Roy's corpse. He tells Jared he has to go retrieve the cocaine from the plane. Jared tells Bates about the shipwreck, and that it might have treasure. Bates doesn't believe him. Next, up on deck, Jared tells Bates he's not going to get the cocaine for him; he's going to destroy it all. Bates laughs, but suddenly Jared dives into the water. Bates orders his henchmen to suit up and go after him.
Next is a sequence of scenes, alternating from Jared and Bryce fighting with the henchmen underwater, and Sam trying to save herself on the boat. Basically what happens with Sam; She first drags the body around in the hull of the boat. She eventually finds a machete. She grimaces, and raises her arm, machete in hand, and slices down, cutting off the corpse's hand. She then begins hitting various pipes and gauges with the machete. Upstairs, things start going awry; things start falling and smoking... The henchmen in the cockpit heads downstairs into the hull to see what's wrong. Sam eludes the henchman at first. Then makes a run for the door, and slams it shut. Sam heads up on deck. The henchman finds another exit and charges after her. She runs upstairs, heading for the cockpit, he grabs her foot; she turns around and kicks him hard in the face, then runs into the cockpit. The henchman is right behind her, Sam slams the door shut, right on his hand, and locks hit. He screams in pain. Sam runs to the control panel, and tries to call the coastguard for help. The henchmen head butts the window and breaks it, reaches in and unlocks the cockpit door. Sam exits via the opposite door. He follows her outside onto the deck again. The henchman tries to find Sam in the maze of fishing equipment. Sam pops out and strikes him in the chest with a pole with a hook on the end. She begins dragging him towards the edge of the boat, after spotting a hungry shark in the water. He grabs a similar hooked pole and strikes at Sam; it stabs into the end of her sandal, just missing her foot. He struggles to his feet, and charges for her; they both tumble into the water.
Underwater they scuffle, he starts choking her, she spots a shark several yards away heading for them, She kicks/struggles free of him, and breaks the surface, panting. Suddenly she is pulled back underwater. The henchman has hold of her again. She struggles harder, and hits him hard in the stomach, he lets go of her, she swims up to the surface just as the huge shark charges fast and chomps right into the henchman's groin, and thrashes him about.
As all this is going on, Bryce is scuffling with henchman down in the plane; he is shot in the stomach with a spear. Jared shoots that henchman through the mask in the eye with another spear. A shark also takes care of another henchman for Jared. Eventually Jared grabs an oxygen tank, and it shoots it off though the hull of the plane towards the front where Bates is. The tank hits bates and causes an underwater explosion when it hits the front of the plane. Jared and Bryce swim to the surface.
The movie ends with Jared and Sam on a boat floating out in the water. They are now free to perform their excavating in peace. While trying to retrieve a heavy cannon from the wreckage, it breaks loose and falls back to the bottom. That's okay, Jared tells Sam that all he needs in the world is right there with him. They kiss.
When the falling cannon hits, it breaks open part of the ship revealing a large bounty of gold.
Bryce, who had been in the water pops out, shouting excitedly about the new discovery as the credits roll.
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