Director: Richard Eubank
Cast: Kristen Stewart, T.J. Miller, Vincent Cassel, John Gallagher Jr., Jessica Henwick, Mamoudou Athie, Gunner Wright
RunTime: 1 hr 35 mins
Rating: PG13 (Some Coarse Language and Violence)
Released By: Walt Disney
Opening Day: 30 January 2020
Synopsis: A crew of underwater researchers must scramble to safety after an earthquake devastates their subterranean laboratory.
It’s both atmospheric and claustrophobic. It’s equally dark and bleak. You can throw all sort of kind words at Underwater and yet it doesn’t matter. It’s simply a poor Aliens’ knock-off which explained why it was shelved for three years.
Underwater has no time for a decent backstory or a proper introduction to its various cast members except to see Kristin Stewart brushing her teeth dressed in a bra top in the opening scene doing a monologue before all hell breaks loose. It turns out that Norah (Stewart) is part of a team of researchers stationed in a deep sea oil drilling rig and a massive earthquake has caused serious damages to the lab resulting in the surviving crew having to scramble to another part of the rig in order to reach the surface.
However, something terrifying has emerged maybe due to the earthquake or the prolonged drilling. Since, we have no time to discuss the scientific happenings, we have to faithfully follow the motley crew of survivors including Captain Lucien (Vincent Cassel), comic relief and troubled star in real-life T.J. Miller, Emily (Iron Fist’s Jessica Henwick), Liam (John Gallagher Jr) and the obligatory black guy, Rodrigo (Mamoudou Athie) in their journey to safety.
Underwater is one of those creature features that is built weakly around one premise and a mysterious dangerous monster. None of the human characters has a reason to stay on the screen for long nor are they written to serve any purpose before they make their grand exit. There’s no Ash, Dwayne or Bishop, there’s only Ripley in the form of Kristin Stewart. Suffice to say, the bulk of the movie lies in her aka the biggest name in this production. Despite all the internet trolls being all so negative about her since her Twilight days, Stewart delivers a believable performance as the main gutsy and angsty heroine figure although she has no reason to be stripped to her underwear.
Director William Eubank and cinematographer Bojan Bazelli employed plenty of shaky, frenetic camera moves and abandoned the usage of lighting throughout to create a murky, clouded environment. Adding to the unnecessary loud surround sound effects and abundance of jump scares is a few brief glimpses of the sea creature before the big reveal in the end. It’s a tactic used to great success in the original Alien but in this case, it can get tiresome starring at dimly light underwater scenes for the majority of the screentime instead of the monster. The script credited to Brian Duffield and Adam Cozad seriously lacks any form of originality from the hatchling creature to the escape pods to the explosive finale. We guess it doesn’t take much to be a screenwriter these days except watching lots and lots of good movies.
For the lack of a monster movie in the month of January, Underwater might satisfy the casual movie-goer who loves a brisk, uncomplicated sea creature thriller. We must also admit the production details and effects are top notch if these justify for a weekday ticket price. For others who desire a far better underwater claustrophobic sci-fi title probably have to stick to Alien, The Abyss or even Event Horizon.
(Kristin Stewart proves she can be a bad-ass too. Unfortunately, Underwater is a forgettable Alien rip-off than a guilty pleasure)
Review by Linus Tee