Underwater (2020)

2020’s Underwater is the final film to be released under the 20th Century Fox name. This is evident, even as Disney picks up the mantle from Fox releases – the film lacks the same level of polish and control that a Disney film would have exhibited. I do feel sad however – I enjoyed the rivalries Fox held with other production companies, and it is still strange to know that one of the largest production houses is now no longer. The film has passed realtively under the radar, with at the time of writing only a couple million views of the trailer on YouTube. That will likely increase, but it is unusual to see a project this large with actors of this level attached to it without a little more fanfare.

In the Mariana Trench, 7 miles below sea level, a deep sea drill is subject to an earthquake, which has dire consequences for the crew on board. Engineer Norah (Kristen Stewart) and her fellow crewmates struggle to find a way to safety as the entire installation begins to fall apart. As the crew comes under a lot of pressure, it becomes clear that all is not as it seems 7 miles below the surface.

Underwater has such obvious homages to Alien that it almost seems silly to call them homages. The logo at the beginning, the initial long tracking shot along a large object, the design choices of the “monsters”. I will say this for Underwater though – it wastes no time. Sh*t hits the fan about 2 minutes into the film. It’s the quickest I think I’ve ever seen a monster in the house film take off running. It’s not as insane as Mad Max: Fury Road’s high octane shenanigans, but there’s rarely a moment when you’re bored.

It is to the film’s detriment, however that is reveals its hand far too early – we are privy to the design of the creatures causing havoc in the undersea station in the first act of the film. This detracts from the suspense in the later acts. When the crew suits up in their very Gears of War underwater diving suits there isn’t as much tension really worked upon that considers the incredible pressure exerted upon these suits when walking on the seafloor. The monsters toy with the crew far too often. Though interpersonal characters dramas are very to type and trope they are pulled off effectively. TJ Miller as Paul deserves a special mention for effectively bringing levity to an otherwise very dour cast and story. 

Ultimately, Underwater is a decent thriller in both an early 00’s structure and style. It’s not a boring film, and it’ll certainly provide some thrills. If you enjoyed Sphere or The Abyss you’ll probably dig this. It’s certainly a shame it won’t get the same marketing fanfare from Disney it would’ve had under Fox, and this film may be one of the largest casualties of the Disney buyout (besides that Alita sequel I would give my kidney for). Still, it’ll make for a fun night out at the movies, or a good one to watch at home alone with a bowl full of popcorn, a pet on your lap and the lights turned down.

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