A crew of aquatic researchers work to get to safety after an earthquake devastates their subterranean laboratory. But the crew has more than the ocean seabed to fear.
‘Alien’ but underwater was a tagline applied to James Cameron’s ‘The Abyss’, and it could equally apply to ‘Underwater’, a claustrophobic monster thriller that is serviceable without breaking any new ground. Kristen Stewart heads the ensemble cast as an engineer on a drilling expedition deep below the surface of the water, where her and the rest of the crew may have disturbed something that should have been left well alone. I’ll go and see any science fiction movie and I didn’t dislike this, but there’s not a lot to recommend to anyone but the most ardent fan of the genre.
Stewart is the best thing about the film and not for the first time delivers a performance better than the material, giving more depth to a character you can imagine was created with Ripley from ‘Alien’ clearly front of mind. It wastes no time in getting into the action with an early explosion killing several crew members, with the six people left remaining forced to abandon their station and head one mile away along the ocean floor to another station that may offer an escape. There’s a lack of originality and the narrative plays out with minimal surprises, with each character written to fill a certain archetype (the funny one, the rookie, the troubled leader), albeit the performers do their best with limited material.
It’s a self contained story despite a late attempt to make a wider point about unscrupulous corporate behaviour, which could have been an interesting angle if the filmmakers wanted to do anymore with the theme than pay mere lip service to the topic. It does maintain a reasonable level of intensity and the short runtime works in its favour, but it does have the look and feel off a low budget piece of science fiction from the 90s (this can be read as both good and bad I suppose). ‘Underwater’ is basically a space movie set at the foot of the ocean and whilst it has its moments, it’s quite a forgettable movie that tells a story that’s been told in better ways many, many times before now.
Directed By: William Eubank
Starring: Kristen Stewart, Vincent Cassel, Mamoudou Athie, Jessica Henwick, John Gallagher Jr. and T.J. Miller