As we’ve learned from films like The Abyss, Deep Rising, and The Meg, no one should travel to the bottom of the ocean. Simply no good will come from there, no matter what James Cameron believes. Some mysteries should remain mysteries, as the characters of William Eubank’s Underwater quickly learn.
January is usually the most dire month for films: most are cast-offs from the previous year, left to rot where they can’t upset Q4 profit margins. Underwater is no exception – it was filmed in mid-2017 (explaining the presence of noted sexual harasser/fake bomb threat caller TJ Miller), and shelved until now, when Disney just wants to get it out there before fully absorbing what was once 20th Century Fox. However, Underwater is a pretty well-made movie! It won’t make back its colossal budget ($90 million, yikes), but it doesn’t deserve to just be forgotten. It’s claustrophobic, fast-paced, and doesn’t let itself get bogged down in over-explanations or exposition. The film hits the ground running and rarely stops.
Kristen Stewart, with a bleach-blonde buzz cut, is Norah, our aquatic Ripley. When disaster strikes her mining station miles below the ocean’s surface, Norah tries to save the few remaining crew before the entire rig collapses and they drown in the darkness. Vincent Cassel plays against type as the shockingly kind captain, who does not betray anyone despite looking like Vincent Cassel. The rest of the crew is undeveloped, but not in a way that detracts from the narrative. We know their names, and that they want to survive.
The film is dark, wet, and truly frightening. It can be hard to see at times, but Eubank tries to make near-blindness compelling, and often succeeds. The fear of drowning is as old as humankind, and the constant danger the crew faces will make you tense up. That, and the slow realization that there’s something inhuman lurking in the waters. If you’re looking for a heart-pounding ride, you could do worse than Underwater.
It’s worth it for Stewart’s pseudo-Sigourney Weaver facing off against what is essentially Cthulhu!
Dir. William Eubank
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