Drowning ‘Underwater’ — A Review

by Ben Martin

Every movie buff has unique or quirky subgenres to which they’re attracted. Me, I’ve always had a penchant for stories that take place under the sea. Thus, I’ll always be slightly befuddled by the fact that I’ve never really dug on Aquaman. Then again, Arthur Curry’s always been an acquired taste. Anyway, the latest offering of submerged cinema is Underwater (2020).
There’s only one place you can go when you’ve drilled up all the resources on the surface; the bottom of the ocean, of course. Underwater follows a crew of aquatic researchers for a drilling company. They’re on a long-leave job, just like any other. But one day, things go awry when the vibrations from an earthquake hit the ocean floor, destroying most of the rig and the majority of its crew. With few resources and even less time, the remaining five crew members must now ban together in an attempt to make it to the surface!

If anything, Underwater is a straightforward genre piece. More to the point, it’s committed to its disaster movies subgenre. However, it’s the film’s commitment to that subgenre which ultimately leaves Underwater treading the surface at the best of times. A good disaster flick will spend up to an hour getting the viewer invested in its characters. That way, when disaster strikes, we know the characters and care about what happens to them. 
Sadly, Underwater doesn’t take that traditional approach. On the contrary, the movie opens with the disaster occurring. Thus, you don’t have time to get settled into the film’s setting, nor its characters. Instead, the film attempts to sprinkle in the characters’ backgrounds late in the second act, and by that point, it’s simply too late to care. By taking this tact, what would otherwise be an impressive ensemble cast, led by Kristen Stewart (Charlie’s Angels (2019)) is done a complete disservice as they’re ultimately given nothing to work with.

Then again, sci-fi veteran director William Eubank (The Signal), writers Brian Duffield (Divergent), and Adam Cozad (The Legend of Tarzan), and the rest of the filmmakers involved aren’t doing any original work here either. Underwater struck me as nothing more than a crossover between The Abyss (1989) and Alien³ (1992), particularly regarding its cinematography and production design. Despite being imitative, Underwater is a competently made picture. However, it is also a tedious and uninspired slog of a film that ultimately drowns. 

Underwater (2020) is Now Playing!

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