kristen stewart in underwater

Review: Underwater

Director(s)William Eubank
Principal CastKristen Stewart as Norah Price
Vincent Cassel as Captain Lucien
T.J. Miller as Paul
Jessica Henwick as Emily
Release Date2020
Language(s)English
Running Time 95 minutes

After the disappointment that was The Grudge, I wasn’t that excited to see another January horror movie. So I set my expectations to 0 and went into Underwater with an open mind.I’m really glad I did, because the movie is a hell of a lot of fun. Yes, it’s an Alien derivative that doesn’t push the monster survival genre in any unique ways, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a fun time.

The movie is paced phenomenally. It doesn’t bloat the run time with a bunch of useless information or tired sequences – instead, it starts off with immediate action. Norah, a mechanical engineer aboard a corporate underwater drill, has to act fast when a breach in her station threatens to flood and destroy everything. Her and a few survivors have to band together and find a way to get out of the situation, but unbeknownst to them there’s some beasts lurking in the sea waiting to strike. Once the action starts it rarely lets up and I was surprised at how interesting the movie was. I never felt bored once, which I think is a mark of success for a thriller/horror.

All the members of the crew are adequate. The pacing of the movie gives little time for character development and it definitely feels like some of them are underutilized. This doesn’t mean there’s no character work – watching the characters deal with the stress of the situation in different ways definitely keeps the movie feeling fresh. Emily’s constant over-analysis or need to explain versus Paul’s humor add some levity to an otherwise tense and claustrophobic experience.

Performances are decent all around. Stewart does a great job as Norah projecting vulnerability and a resolute bad-assery. She’s the only character with a real arc, and it’s satisfying to watch it play out. Everyone else is just kind of along for the ride, so they don’t really get opportunities to add a lot of their own flair to their characters.

The movie is shot way better than I thought it would be. It’s only shaky when it needs to be which keeps the chaotic moments feeling distinct. There’s a great use of darkness and the movie follows the cardinal rule of not showing the “shark” too early. The creatures are hidden until they need to come out so I always felt tensed when I saw something flicker on the screen. The color palette is also murky and has a submerged feeling to it. Some people might be irritated by that. I personally wish it was used less, but it never felt like an issue.

The only real issue the movie has is a lack of purpose? I put a question mark here because I think the ending hints at a more complex “story” which would resolve this issue, but I can’t know until a sequel comes out. This is written with that in mind. Even though the movie is shot and executed well, outside of some awesome moments in the third act, there’s nothing really here that’s unique. It’s not bad- but if you want to see something that completely re-invents the Alien style of movie, you won’t find it here. Instead, you’ll find a competent thriller that’s action packed from beginning to end.

Report Card

TLDRUnderwater is a tense,claustrophobic, and exciting from start to finish. It may not reinvent the wheel, but it’s a well executed thriller with some incredible moments in the third act. If you like Alien derivates or underwater thrillers, you should check it out!
Rating7.5/10
GradeC+

Go to Page 2 for my spoiler-full thoughts!

 

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