Pop Culture

Reviews For The Easily Distracted:

Title: Underwater

Describe This Movie In One Florence and the Machine Lyric:

But oh, my love, don't forget me
When I let the water take me

Brief Plot Synopsis: Is that an Alien or a Leviathan in the Deep, Rising from the Abyss-al depths?

Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: 3.5 Nick Noltes out of 5.

Tagline: "7 miles below the ocean's surface, something has awakened."

Better Tagline: "*47 meters* down? Yawn."

Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: The bad news is, deep sea drill station Kepler has suffered an almost total collapse. The good news is ... actually, there is no good news, because there are no functioning escape pods. With no other choice, the rig's captain (Vincent Cassel) must lead the surviving crewmembers — including engineer Norah (Kirsten Stewart) and ... Paul (T.J. Miller) — to safety. To make matters worse, it soon becomes apparent they aren't alone in the depths.

"Critical" Analysis:
A lot has happened between the 2017 filming of Underwater and its eventual release. But let's concentrate on those events relevant to the movie itself:
  • Disney bought 20th Century Fox
  • Kristen Stewart largely dropped out of the public eye
  • T.J. Miller was revealed to be a shitty human being
We may never know if Fox intended to release this movie at some time other than the traditional January doldrums, but it would be interesting to find out what the studio's original promotional plans were. Because while Underwater was probably never going to be a blockbuster, it deserves better than "movie option for people whose NFL team didn't make the playoffs."

When director William Eubank keeps the action in close quarters, such as during a gripping early sequence of Norah squeezing through the collapsed structure, the movie is riveting. And even after the eventual reveal and descent (heh) into sea monster predictability, there are glimpses of the movie it seems like Eubank wanted to make.

And it's easy to believe T.J. Miller was shoehorned into this due to his pre-2017 popularity, given how utterly out of place his character is. His fratboy comedy stylings threaten to undermine the atmosphere of dread and the work Stewart, Cassel, and basically everyone else in the cast are doing to sell the situation. It's a relief when he finally dies.

Oh, uh, spoiler warning.

Eubank's previous movie was The Signal (which he also wrote), an uneven sci-fi effort that nonetheless intriguingly explored themes of logic versus desire. Underwater, on the other hand, was scripted by the co-writers of The Babysitter, and Insurgent. Maybe grander concepts were too much to expect. Underwater clocks in at a lean 90 minutes, and could honestly be at least 20 longer.

For example, an accidentally discovered memorial card and a brief conversation about personal tragedy are all the backstory we get for the two main characters, while any technical dilemmas are brute-forced (and boy, will you be alarmed to learn how easy it is to disable the safety protocols on a billion-dollar subsea installation).

It also would've been nice to get some detail about the project besides the newspaper clipping intro? Or more of the hinted connection between Lucien and the monstrous goings-on? The final act teases a much more intriguing angle on the "undersea monster" genre before the painfully perfunctory ending. And yet, even abrupt — and in spite of Miller's best efforts — it's quite enjoyable.

Trust me: I wouldn't deep[star] six your expectations.
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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar