PG Score: 7/10
Underwater is a surprisingly satisfying deep sea creature feature. This exciting escape film from Director William Eubank (The Signal) boasts an effective mix of tense claustrophobic moments, impressive destruction sequences, and refreshing creature design.
The plot is appropriately basic and to the point. It centers on a crew of subterranean researchers struggling to get to safety after an earthquake decimates their shady corporation’s underwater facility. They soon realize that they are not alone.
The film wastes no time plunging directly into the action. From the get-go, the overwhelming peril is depicted on a massive scale. The vast subterranean lab is shown crumbling to the ocean floor in a series of visually striking destruction set pieces. The technical feats within the film are showcased by stunning cinematography and excellent sound design. The dim lighting is expertly utilized and contributes to many of Underwater’s more thrilling encounters.
The group of survivors includes mechanical engineer Norah (Kristen Stewart), Captain Lucien (Vincent Cassel), Paul (T.J. Miller), new research assistant Emily (Jessica Henwick), and Smith (John Gallagher Jr.). The characters are relatively interesting and the actors behind them do an adequate job. The standout is T.J. Miller, who provides timely doses of cynical humor. More than once, he depressurizes a nerve-racking situation with a well-delivered one-liner. The comic relief is sporadic enough that it serves its purpose each time its used. Kristen Stewart is the focus here and does a good job in the spotlight, successfully playing a lead with significant emotional baggage.
The main draw is the unique creature design. It is difficult to discuss this achievement without crossing into spoiler territory. However, the marine monstrosity is in a league with other iconic movie monsters.
The main negatives are occasionally flat writing, perplexing use of slow-motion, and a PG-13 rating. Some of the character backstories occur during absurd times. Additionally, the character development suffers from some weak dialogue. While a measure of disbelief should understandably be suspended, there were a few points where the movie ignores basic laws of physics. It is clear that it would have benefited from a hard R-rating as much of the bloodshed is, unfortunately, offscreen. With such a great creature design, it is a shame it wasn’t utilized in a more fearsome fashion.
While some negatives try to sink the movie, the superb creature design and intense chaos keep it afloat. Underwater’s lean 95 minute runtime is supplied with enough thrills to make this venture worth your while.