There is something about the depths of the ocean that gives me the heeby jeebies. With films like Alien we can take solace in the fact that the Xenomorph is lightyears away from Earth. What’s up in the sky will take a long time to get to Earth, but what’s lurking in the ocean… that’s already here. This is a plot that has been touched upon in more than a few films. Underwater is just the latest in the long series of these creature features. Does it deliver on the promise of terror seven miles beneath the ocean?
“You are now 5,000 miles below land.”
A corporation looking find resources has begun drilling to the bottom of the Mariana Trench. After an earthquake hits the drilling station a group of workers must band together to escape the irreparable damage and get back to the surface. Things aren’t all they appear to be when a bunch of never before seen creatures beginning to wreak havoc on our survivors. This is pretty standard stuff and in fact if you couldn’t tell cribs quite a bit from the previously mentioned Alien and other survival films like one of my all time favorites The Thing.
One of the best parts of the film is that it doesn’t waste our time. The characters and audience are automatically thrown into a world of chaos mere minutes into the film. This whiplash gives a jolt and sets the tone for what lays ahead. I’m also thankful that we get to know the characters throughout the film rather than shoving character development down our throats in a potentially boring the first act.
With the cast we do get some of the best parts of the film. I know people still carry disdain for Kristen Stewart (and for that matter Robert Pattinson) as an actor thanks to her years tied to the Twilight franchise, but it’s been almost a decade since Breaking Dawn came out. Since then she has proven through roles in Camp X-Ray and Personal Shopper that she has chops. Here she does a competent, but not substantial job. I think that might be the best way to sum up the entire cast. Everyone does what they can and injects some life into their roles, but there’s no real stand out.
“I drilled to the bottom of the ocean, and we don’t know what came out.”
As always Vincent Cassel does a great job. Your enjoyment of T.J. Miller will depend on how much you like him as he’s playing his typical character. I know I’ve said it before but I will say it again, we need casting directors to give John Gallagher Jr. more work damn it. The guy is such a great actor who has been relegated to supporting roles. Has the industry collectively forgotten just how great he was in The Newsroom? It was nice to see both Jessica Henwick and Mamoudou Athie round out the cast. They’re great up and comers who bring a lot to the ensemble.
Credit to director William Eubank and cinematographer Bojan Bazelli for doing a fantastic job selling the tension of the film in both claustrophobic (the underwater rig) and extremely open (the ocean floor) environments. All scenes give off their own sense of dread whether you fear the imminent destruction of rig or the dark and vast openness and what is hiding in the ocean. Knowing that a majority of the underwater scenes were filmed on pitch black sets with some atmospheric particles it looks pretty believable.
As a horror film that was dumped by Disney in January from the 20th Century Fox slate I had my doubts about Underwater. It wasn’t perfect, but in time it will find an audience and develop a cult following. Also, points for giving Gunner Wright a role. We Dead Space fans appreciate the reference.
Overall Score 3.5/5