Capsule Review: Under Paris (2024) – A Gory B-Movie Shark Thriller Undermined By Tedious Drama

What if there’s a shark in the Seine River? That’s the novelty surrounding Xavier Gens’ Under Paris (originally Sous la Seine), which instantly reminds me of a what-if scenario of a volcano eruption in downtown Los Angeles in 1997’s Volcano. The movie also recalls Renny Harlin’s 1999 underrated Deep Blue Sea since both stories revolved around a mutated Mako shark.

Here, the Mako shark in Under Paris is given the name of “Lilith”, where she (yes, a female species) is first spotted in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch as marine scientist Sophia (Bérénice Bejo) and her team have been tracking her all the while. The pre-credits opening scene seems promising at first, complete with a gruesome shark attack and a riveting close-call moment. The CGI shark and the underwater shot look decent enough and thankfully none of the murky or dimly-lit cinematography, allows us to see clearly what’s going on.

The story then jumps to three years later with Sophia now working as a guide at the aquarium. But her past eventually catches up with her when she finds out about Lilith in the Seine River. Complicating matters are the conflicts between the police diving team led by Adil (Nassim Lyes) and a pair of “Save the Sea Collective” environmental activists Mika (Lea Leviant) and Ben (Nagisa Morimoto). And that’s not all as a stubborn mayor (Anne Marivin) insists on proceeding with the upcoming triathlon event as scheduled in — where else — the Seine River.

The middle part of the movie stutters with a series of uninspiring moments that feel like a slog to sit through. Save it for Bérénice Bejo, who does her best playing the post-traumatic protagonist trying to make things right, the rest of the actors are forgettable. In other words, it’s hard for me to care whether some of these characters going to make it alive or become fish food.

The movie also wants to say something about the climate crisis and marine pollution, which ultimately leads to deadly consequences a la Roland Emmerich-type environmental cautionary tales blend with the disaster genre (except in this case, a creature feature). Frankly, it barely matters because the attempted subtle and in-your-face messages are merely placeholders for the mad-shark-on-the-loose storyline.

Under Paris finally picks up the pace where it matters the most — the bonkers and even subversive third act as Gens goes all out with the shark attack (among the scenes worth mentioning here is the gory sequence set in the Catacombs). For some reason, it gives me the vibes of a bloodletting B-movie energy of Alexandre Aja’s Piranha 3D and of course, the mockbuster-style Sharknado. It’s absurdly fun and thrilling, making me feel that Gens, who also co-wrote the script alongside Yannick Dahan and Maud Heywang, should have just embraced the over-the-top silliness of its premise wholeheartedly.

Shame about the so-called human drama and the underlying ecological subject matter that is obviously out of Gens’ league. If only Gen hadn’t gone heavy-handed with his storytelling, it would have benefitted Under Paris more as an entertaining guilty pleasure of a shark thriller.

Under Paris is currently streaming on Netflix.