Directed By: William Eubank
Written By: Brian Duffield, Adam Cozad
Staring: Kristen Stewart, Jessica Henwick, T.J. Miller, Vincent Cassel, John Gallagher Jr., Mamoudou Athie, Gunner Wright, Fiona Rene, Amanda Troop
Release Date: January 10, 2020
Underwater is a perfectly fine movie. It is not bad. It is not good. It’s strictly middle of the road. Underwater tries its best to combine Alien (1979) and The Abyss (1989) (and probably Leviathan (1989), but I have not seen that), but it’s with mixed results. The result is a standard monster movie that falls hard on cinematic tropes but uses a quick pace to keep afloat from the muck that tends to sink many adapters of the formula.
Kristen Stewart stars as the protagonist Norah, a mechanical engineer at Keppler 822 Station for Tian Industries, an industry intend on drilling seven miles deep to the depths of the Marianna Trench. Immediately all hell breaks loose as the station suffers catastrophic damage from an earthquake and sends members of the crew into a frantic scramble for survival. The surviving group blends all the typical personalities; the rigid leader, the comedic relief, the inexperienced, the shy lover and the selfless. The mystery that shrouds this thriller surrounds a species, a monster if you will, that terrorizes the company. The characters disappear one-by-one until the conclusion, which while predictable in Underwater’s case, is the only way to end this certain story.
The story by Brian Duffield and fellow screenplay writer Adam Cozad are treading on familiar waters, but they do the right thing in making sure Underwater doesn’t sit long enough for you to realize that. The 94 minutes is brisk (for the most part) with very little time wasted to over-producing characters or exposition. The ending of the movie suffers from the over exploration for character’s motivation; it feeds a little bit too much into the idea that the audience needs to understand everyone’s motivations.
The claustrophobic atmosphere of Underwater is very reminiscent of Alien. Crawling through tight spaces, the strobe lighting effect, and the use of darkness and silence. Even the characters of Norah and Ripley are similar; quiet, confident, and engineered driven. Should also note that there is DIRECT reference to Alien with how the surviving passengers of Keppler 822 Station first interact with the new entity.
Then there are the similarities to The Abyss. Going deep (and I mean DEEP…all my Binge Mode podcast listeners) into the ocean with fancy, mechanical diving suites (reminded me of the Bioshock video games if I am being real) and discovering a new species and interacting with it. Certainly, the relationship between the two is different, but the essence is the same.
The acting in Underwater is nothing to right home about. The best of the bunch is Vincent Cassell as The Captain. His relationship with Norah is one of quiet understanding and mutual confidence in one another. Looking at his IMDB, I am excited to see that he will be in season three of HBO’s Westworld. TJ Miller plays the comic relief (naturally), Paul. He is going full tilt from the get-go with the one-liners. Some are effective, and some are over-wrought. It’s all a matter of what you prefer.
Kristen Stewart as the lead character and story-pusher is exactly what people expect. She is not going to show an immense range of emotion on her face, but she does a fine job of conveying feelings in her own way. Her eyes do a lot of the talking in Underwater, which is effective seeing how there are many close-facing shots inside the deep-diving apparatus.
In terms of scares, Underwater doesn’t deliver a lot of truly frightening moments. There are strong suspense building scenes, but the terror isn’t gripping your seat type. The kills are imaginative at times, and predictable at others. The final reveal or twist I personally called with 30 minutes to go in the movie, but for the people surrounding me in the theater it was a surprise.
Overall Underwater is a perfectly adequate movie that lives in limbo. You’ll float through it and maybe ride a few waves, but in the end its current isn’t strong enough to carry you out to any amazing experience.
Stanko Rating: C (2.5/5 Stars)