Review: Underwater

Score: C

Director: William Eubank

Cast: Kristen Stewart, Vincent Cassel, T.J. Miller, John Gallagher Jr.

Running Time: 95 Minutes

Rated: PG-13

Underwater is an often intense movie with some innovative production design and cinematography, charming actors (and uh, T.J. Miller) and it's not based on a comic book. So why was I so underwhelmed by it? It's simply, really: the script.

The film takes obvious inspiration from Alien and The Abyss. But both of those movies – in addition to being made by top-notch filmmakers – did the legwork to make us care about the characters before things started going horribly wrong. Underwater kicks off the action immediately, gives its characters some traits (dead loved one, quirky sense of humor, nervousness) and calls it a day. There's absolutely no reason to care, and that kills any sense of urgency the film has. It's also so opaque that I kept waiting for a big twist that never came to pass.

Kristen Stewart plays Norah, a mechanical engineer on a deep sea rig. When their living quarters are torn apart by an earthquake, she crawls through debris with Rodrigo (Mamoudou Athie) and Paul (T.J. Miller) to rendezvous with the Captain (Vincent Cassel), Emily (Jessica Henwick) and Liam (John Gallagher, Jr.) With the rig about to blow, they have to walk along the ocean floor to the drilling platform, where they can then make their escape.

The good news is the film mostly captures the confusion of walking in total darkness while still being able to see and understand what's going on. And there are some occasionally terrifying moments as the survivors are picked off by... something. Of course, once the creatures are revealed, they're far less menacing. Underwater takes its time in showing us the monsters, but they still look extremely silly once we see their CGI bodies.

All this may be enough for some viewers hunting for something, anything mildly original and thrilling. But to make something lasting, Underwater needed to come up for air to let its characters breathe.


About Kip Mooney

Kip Mooney
Like many film critics born during and after the 1980s, my hero is Roger Ebert. The man was already the best critic in the nation when he won the Pulitzer in 1975, but his indomitable spirit during and after his recent battle with cancer keeps me coming back to read not only his reviews but his insightful commentary on the everyday. But enough about a guy you know a lot about. I knew I was going to be a film critic—some would say a snob—in middle school, when I had to voraciously defend my position that The Royal Tenenbaums was only a million times better than Adam Sandler’s remake of Mr. Deeds. From then on, I would seek out Wes Anderson’s films and avoid Sandler’s like the plague. Still, I like to think of myself as a populist, and I’ll be just as likely to see the next superhero movie as the next Sundance sensation. The thing I most deplore in a movie is laziness. I’d much rather see movies with big ambitions try and fail than movies with no ambitions succeed at simply existing. I’m also a big advocate of fun-bad movies like The Room and most of Nicolas Cage’s work. In the past, I’ve written for The Dallas Morning News and the North Texas Daily, which I edited for a semester. I also contributed to Dallas-based Pegasus News, which in the circle of life, is now part of The Dallas Morning News, where I got my big break in 2007. Eventually, I’d love to write and talk about film full-time, but until that’s a viable career option, I work as an auditor for Wells Fargo. I hope to one day meet my hero, go to the Toronto International Film Festival, and compete on Jeopardy. Until then, I’m excited to share my love of film with you.