Underwater Movie Review
Review by Pedro Schwarzenegger (C-): Breath Race 2000
THE PLOT: Rest easy film patrons, Underwater is not a film about your current mortgage... Before we even have time to wonder how Marshall Mathers (spoiler alert - it’s Bella from Twilight) ended up working on a city-sized drill rig at the bottom of the Marianas Trench, 70% of the station implodes leaving the survivors with limited options for survival. Options that restrict even further when they discover that they’re not alone in the deepest recesses of the deep blue sea. For there are monsters down here. Monsters that run silent, and cut deep.
THE FILM: Some films benefit from treating their opening credits as a starter pistol - Run Lola Run, Fury Road, perhaps Luc Besson’s Lucy - where the end of the movie is more quarter-mile finish line than finish. Yet even the most expeditious motion pictures understand that, at some point, they’re going to need a few moments to catch their breath and collect their thoughts. To stop, figuratively speaking, and huff the painted roses. Which, tragically, isn’t the case with William Eubank’s Underwater. His film means to finish in 95 minutes faster than any 95 minute feature before it. To which we must point out that this is supposed to be a horror/thriller, not a text to DoorDash. The ending need not arrive piping hot, it just needs to arrive.
The amphetamine pacing starts early. We notice that the surviving crew members of the doomed Roebuck Drill operation are moving and speaking to each other at a pace few hummingbirds could translate, let alone hope to keep up with. When describing the syntax rate, garbled even feels like a verb that’s too long, with too many vowel cues. Grbld feels more appropriate.
Which is a shame really, because there really is a nice monster movie somewhere in this vortex of verbiage and violence. The sets look terrific. The costuming is top notch. (let’s hope skimpy underwear is making a return to science fiction) The cinematography recalls the misty heydays of science fiction terror. The kills are meaty. The sequences promise tension. But here’s the thing about tension. Unless you’re in a High-G training centrifuge at NASA, you need to slow down to let tension settle in.
For instance there’s a ripe moment early on where Kristen Stewart’s Norah, and T.J. Miller’s err... T.J. Miller, need to squirm through some debris to get to the command center. The confines are tight - as tight as they were during the best scenes in Neil Marshall’s The Descent, (in fact, Underwater borrows heavily from that excellent, and vastly superior 2005 horror film) so much so that all 120lbs of Stewart’s nubile body can barely manage to inch through. It’s a tense, wonderfully claustrophobic section of the film. It works because we’ve already seen T.J. Miller with his shirt off a few minutes before - we know there’s absolutely no chance that he’s going to be capable of mashing his vivacious dad-bod through this cramped concrete birth canal... the tension is palpable. Until that is, we cut immediately to the other side of the obstacle, and discover that the team made it somehow. Someway. It’s as if William Eubank grew bored with the moment. He wants to get to his monsters even more than we do.
Underwater, it turns out, has bigger schemes and goals than its filmmaker has patience. It’s a disaster movie. It’s a monster movie. It’s set in an environment that could crush the Superdome like an aluminum pop can. It doesn’t get any more high concept than the setting and plot of this movie. For a filmmaker with genuine perseverance this is rich territory for delivering terror and tension. So what’s the big rush?
THE VERDICT: We can imagine that Eubank installed canisters of N20 - instead of O2 - on the shoulders of his actors deep-sea suits. And instead of calling out ‘ACTION’ to set his production in motion, he simply popped the thumb-trigger on the nitrous, Fast & Furious style, to send his talent ricocheting down the path he lay before them in the script. Underwater is not The Abyss, but it’s far from abysmal. Underwater is fast, (way too fast) flimsy, and mostly forgettable. But there are fleeting moments where it certainly feels fun.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.