The story of El Markeb revolves around a group of young and reckless friends who take a boat trip together behind their parents’ backs. Sailing into the middle of the sea, they engage in all sorts of outrageous debauchery. Karma seemingly hits them hard, though; as the boat’s captain dies, leaving the friends completely helpless and stranded. They must figure out a way to get back to shore, but they slowly begin to turn against one another, as dark secrets surface.
The film’s plot immediately sounds very familiar and can be likened to the plots of recent American films such as Open Water (2003) and its 2006 sequel. Still, the elements that go into making this type of drama tick most of the boxes for a tense thriller- if executed well.

Unfortunately in the case of El Markeb, the story is not only familiar, but also weak, exaggerated and full of plot holes. The captain’s death is a flimsy and very cheap catalyst for the events to unfold, and will have you rolling your eyes. Also, the group of self-indulgent teenagers fail to gain the audience’s acceptance at the beginning of the film, and so when they become stranded, it’s difficult to have any sympathy for them.

While the film includes newcomers such as Ahmed Saad and Islam Gamal, you’d expect the likes of Farah Yousef and Yosra El Lozy to give stronger performances considering their higher level of experience in comparison to the debutants'. The only respectable but sadly brief performance is by Raghda, who plays El Lozy's alcoholic mother. Generally, the performances vary on the range of the exaggerated and excessively dramatic, making it almost impossible to empathise with the characters in their ordeal, or even as real people.

El Markeb is definitely different from the standard Egyptian films out right now, but poorly rehashing old plots from other films and the cast’s exaggerated and melodramatic acting make this a train-wreck of a film.

Shot on a low budget, El Markeb won't appeal to the indie film demographic, nor can it compete on any level with the bigger commercial films. Director Abu Laban clearly chose the setting of the boat as an alternative backdrop for teenage angst and a younger generation’s issues to play out on, but the questionable production values make it an awkward and claustrophobic watch that will almost certainly make you want to jump ship.