Underwater is like Alien if it took place underwater, but not as derivative as I thought it would be. The film is not only a balls-to-the-wall thriller, but a subtle warning to humanity that our greed for resources and destruction of the world comes with consequences. Mother Nature will fight back, and possibly in the form of a Lovecraftian squid monster…Cthulhu?
Seven miles deep along the Mariana Trench, engineers and researchers maintaining a drilling station are hit by a tremor which threatens to collapse their entire facility. A band of survivors walk into the dark unknown, desperately seeking some way to the surface.
Underwater doesn’t waste any time getting started. Just as Norah, our main protagonist played by Kristen Stewart, helps a spider out of a sink and begin to delve into a monologue on cynicism, an “earthquake” hits and everyone is running for their lives; from this point on, the film never lets up. Squeezed into a 95-minute runtime, the film is briskly paced. Character development is minimal, yet existent, and doesn’t feel arbitrary. In retrospect, how much did we learn about characters outside of Ripley in Alien? Speaking of Ripley, Kristen Stewart commands this film; can we all finally agree she is a good actress? Also, T.J. Miller plays himself and Vincent Cassel puts in solid work as the captain.
The screen is often dark and muddled, making the viewer as impaired as its protagonists. The thrills are a mix of jump scares and spurts of violence. Underwater recognizes its simple premise, and never tries to be overly ambitious. As a result, the film is dumb, but works as serviceable popcorn entertainment. I’ve made this argument before, and I’ll make it again, I believe the film could’ve benefitted from an R-rating – it didn’t feel too far from one already.
Underwater was filmed in 2017 and is only now being released three years later. It is the last film to be released under the 20th Century Fox name, as Disney has changed the name to 20th Century Studios in its further creation of a monopoly at the box office. It’s unfortunate that Underwater is essentially being tossed in the trash with its release in January, the month where films go to die (except for Bad Boys). Like most sci-fi today, the film is reminiscent of past great works, but Underwater still has the characteristics of an original film; this is what lured me to seeing it in the first place. If you’re like me and cannot get enough of sci-fi, go ahead and see Underwater while you still can. 7/10
Disclosure: I am long Dis.