Friday, 28 February 2020

Review: Underwater

Cert: 15 / 95 mins / Dir. William Eubank / Trailer

The fates were already conspiring against William Eubank's new movie before the it began. Someone bastard my allocated-seat, a fire-exit sign shining directly onto the screen, then a delayed start-time due to a projector failure once the film itself began (which was going to be ten minutes, but became fifteen and then thirty*1).

So Kristen Stewart was going to have to work pretty fucking hard to turn this around in a film with a painfully literal (and yet wholly nondescript) title and a trailer which makes Underwater look average, at best.

Reader, Underwater is average at best.

A mining station in the Marianas Trench is compromised when a series of earthquakes are revealed to be the work of mysterious creatures, the likes of which haven't been seen before. The small band of survivors must suit-up, leave their ruined base and cross the ocean bed on foot to reach a relay station where they can escape to the surface. During this perilous journey, members of the group are picked off one*2 by one by the monsters, the environment, or a screenwriter who's only ever watched alien-invasion movies. Yeah, it's basically Aliens but underwater*3.


Credit where it's due, it has quite a strong cast for a film this inconsequential. Kristen Stewart leads the gang as a brainy-but-tough scientist. You know KStew's brainy because she's wearing glasses in the first scene. Glasses with a prescription so ethereal that they do not bend light in any way when viewed from an angle, which is probably why she gets through the rest of the film absolutely fine without them. It feels as if Stewart is picking roles like letters from a scrabble-bag these days. As a performer, Kristen is definitely better than this, yet it's becoming more difficult to pinpoint exactly what she should be doing any more.

Elsewhere, Vincent Cassel is vaguely unlikeable (again) and TJ Miller resorts to playing himself (again). Fair enough guys, stick to what you know.


A b-grade sci-fi/horror with a story that runs on rails, Underwater is the exact amount of silly bollocks you expect, and you'll enjoy it accordingly. Our heroes bicker, shriek and mumble their way through the script, so it's probably a good thing that words are largely redundant here. You could watch this dubbed into any language you don't speak and have exactly the same experience*4. You just can't shake the feeling that none of it matters. The movie looks great and is efficiently assembled, but feels generic.

Of course the film starts moralising about drilling and humanity's moral duty in its third act, but by that point the whole thing is so divorced from reality that it could segue into an episode of Spongebob Squarepants and make as much sense...

On paper, Underwater categorically does not need to exist, and the film does nothing to challenge that situation. But hey, at least it's not about sharks.

So, what sort of thing is it similar to?
Aliens, The Abyss and who knows how many others.

Is it worth paying cinema-prices to see?

Is it worth hunting out on DVD, Blu-ray or streaming, though?
Stream it, tops.

Is this the best work of the cast or director?

Will we disagree about this film in a pub?

Is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?

Yeah but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 1: Jess Pava is in this.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

*1 With audience-members still turning up during this time, the late-running of the movie rewarding their tardiness if anything. Outrageous. [ BACK ]

*2 Because of course Mamoudou Athie, the only black cast-member with a character-name, is the first to die. Although that's probably a lucky escape, to be honest. [ BACK ]

*3 Movie exec 1: So what if we made Aliens, but underwater?!?
Movie exec 2: Pretty sure that's already been d--
Movie exec 1: Rhetorical question, Terry. Kristen Stewart has already signed on and agreed to run around in her pants for half of it. We start filming on Monday... [ BACK ]

*4 Although in an early scene, Stewart's character voiceovers that you lose track of time when you can't see daylight. And fair play, 95 minutes seems like fucking forever when you know you're going to be late getting across town for your next movie, as a 45-minute travel window is hacked down to quarter of an hour... [ BACK ]

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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