Underwater stars Kristen Stewart as Norah, part of an underwater drilling team that finds themselves seven miles down in the ocean when their facility starts to implode. This film starts out quickly with disaster. Norah is brushing her teeth when the whole compound starts to collapse. Why? What happened? Is it sabotage or something other worldly? Her captain, Lucien (the always reliable Vincent Cassel) comes up with the idea of the survivors donning their special pressurized suits and making their way to another part of what remains of their facility. Sound familiar?
Therein is the problem with Underwater. This is a familiar tale recycled from other films most of which are better than Underwater. That is not to say Underwater is not all bad. It has its moments and Kristen Stewart is actually quite good as Norah. She is a troubled lass, mourning the loss of her boyfriend whose death still plagues her. She blames herself and as the film progresses she explains why. But Underwater cannot seem to help itself but travel the same road other underwater pictures like this have. I will say that director, William Eubank, is a man who shows great promise. He is a former cinematographer turned director who helmed the indie hit, The Signal, which was actually pretty decent. The material with Underwater is just too routine.
Eubank knows to keep the camera tight throughout the film giving a real sense of claustrophobia as you would feel in this situation. The problem is with the script which is just too pat and predictable. Written by the scribes of Jane Got a Gun and Insurgent, Brian Duffield and Adam Cozad, the characters are all cutouts of other characters borrowed from The Abyss, Alien and even the underwater disaster film Leviathan with Peter Weller. One character, the wise cracker, Paul Abel (T.J. Miller) is so far over the top, however, that I did not believe he was a scientist of any kind, let alone part of a deep sea team of them. His character actually became kind of annoying and detracted from the film’s tension.
Another problem for Underwater is the visual effects which look cheap and shoddy. It has a budget of eighty million dollars so where the money went is anyone’s guess. The final battle is literally so murky I had a hard time seeing what was going on and yes, I had my glasses on, too. I will give a big shout out, however, for the score by Marco Beltrami and Brandon Roberts. It is a different mix of orchestral and electronic arrangements; beautiful and terrifying. Other than the climax, the cinematography by Bojan Bazelli is excellent. I don’t know how or why the finale is so turbid because the rest of the film is visually striking. Bazelli has shot some very impressive films from The Lone Ranger, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, A Cure for Wellness and The Ring. Each film having its own distinctive flavor.
Overall, there are some great scenes of tension in Underwater. The pacing is decent and the acting, for the most part is sufficient. But by the end of the film, you will have a severe sense of been here, done that. Underwater is not an awful film, though. It is effective in spurts and I was intrigued by some of it. I am interested in what director William Eubank’s vision for his upcoming film, Count, a modern retelling of Alexander Dumas’ classic tale, The Count of Monte Cristo. Until then, I will stick with The Abyss for underwater adventure.
Underwater – **3/4 out of 5
Underwater – Rated PG-13 for violence, language scenes of terror
Underwater – Run time is 95 minutes
Underwater is now available on DVD, On Demand and subscription services.