Underwater (2020) Review

First things first, the title itself doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. Not to mention casting Kristen Stewart in the lead role on a big-budget Hollywood blockbuster and a been-there, done-that sci-fi thriller setup of Alien meets The Abyss and Leviathan — all of which spells like an aquatic disaster bound to sink to the bottom of the ocean floor.

And yet, I was hoping that the long-delayed Underwater (it was originally shot in 2017 but the Disney-Fox merger postponed its release until three years later) can surprise me otherwise, given the fact it was directed by William Eubank. The same director whose last low-budget sci-fi movie called The Signal back in 2014 was ambitious, albeit uneven cross of TV’s The Twilight Zone meets The X-Files. Underwater would mark the director’s biggest-budgeted studio project yet, which reportedly cost US$80 million to make.

But before I get on with my review, here’s what Underwater is all about: A crew of researchers — among them are Kristen Stewart’s Norah, Vincent Cassel’s Captain and Jessica Henwick’s Emily — must find ways to get to the safety following an earthquake that wrecked most of their underwater research facility. Soon, the surviving crew discover that they are not the only ones under the deep blue sea.

If the synopsis above sounds awfully generic, that’s because Brian Duffield and Adam Cozad’s screenplay is nothing more than a paper-thin version of the three aforementioned sci-fi thrillers combined. In fact, they didn’t bring anything fresh or new to the table other than turning Underwater into a straightforward genre fare.

And speaking of the latter, Eubank even jumps straight to the action within the opening minutes itself and focuses on the crew’s treacherous journey in surviving the underwater earthquake. It was the kind of movie made for viewers with short attention spans, where little things called character and story developments are taking a backseat to give way for pacey 95-minute running time.

Although Eubank does a decent job when comes to executing some of the movie’s claustrophobic moments, Underwater remains a huge missed opportunity. It doesn’t help either when the cast is forgettable with underwhelming performances all around.