Movie Review: For cheap thrills, go “Underwater”

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“Underwater” is “Alien” at the bottom of the Deep Blue Sea. That much you can tell from the movie’s commercials and trailers.

But it’s also “Alien” with laughs. That doesn’t really come across in the advertising, despite the presence of Deadpool’s amusing Father Confessor — T.J. Miller.

So as we’re yanked through what a deep sea drilling crew do to survive the collapse of their vast, elaborate habitat due to “earthquakes” and/or “There’s something OUT there,” we’ve got Miller as doughy Paul, a lump with too many tattoos, tattered underwear and a stuffed bunny he clings to life like itself.

We hear him refer to our heroine and narrator, plucky engineer Norah, as a “sweet, flat-chested Elvin creature.” As she’s played by Kristen Stewart, we concur, even as we recall Miller’s #MeToo failings.

Here’s an action film about half a dozen survivors of an undersea accident trying to get to safety on the surface, crawling through debris, stripping to their underwear — sexy, in the ladies’ case, tattered and not-covering-enough of Paul — struggling into “Pacific Rim” sized pressure suits for walks across the sea floor, hoping the rising water, the exploding walls, the lethal pressure at 6 miles down or the “thing” or “things” out there don’t kill them.

Here’s what makes all that bad, dumb action movie fun. “There’d better be a good punchline, because the set-up is WEAK!”

Norah narrates our tale, and it is from her point of view that we’re hurled straight into crisis. She’s brushing her teeth when the walls cave in.

She scrambles hither and yon, picking up other survivors (Jessica Henwick, Mamoudou Athie, John Gallagher Jr.), including Paul.

But it is finding the captain (Vincent Cassel) that is the most sobering. He’s stuck in the escape pod chamber, having sent other survivors to the surface. He’s here because “that’s what captains do.”

Now that there’s help, he formulates a plan and they set off to make way to other escape pods. Mayhem ensues. Not all survive. But you guessed that.  

Director William Eubank (“The Signal”) keeps the camera close, inside of Norah’s dive suit, staring out into the murky void of the bottom of the Mariana Trench.

Frantic moments are blurs of hand-held XCU mayhem — water and explosions and frantic-scrambles-to-escape menaces tactile and knowable, and those unknown.

Stewart does a fine job as tour guide through this little slice of salty hell, of carrying our sympathies and hopes with her as Norah confronts inner demons and sea monsters, reaches outside herself to help others and, oh, by the way — fixes every jammed door, frozen computer and balky piece of tech. Because she’s an engineer, dammit.

The script isn’t all that, serving up a collection of character “types” (you’ll know who the first to die is at first glance), But Paul quotes from “Alice in Wonderland,” another character describes a doomsday “energy” drilling explosion with the authority of “I watch a lot of anime.”

In other words, “Underwater’s” a goof — a fun bad movie and a perfectly fine way to waste 90 minutes at the cinema.

2stars1

MPAA Rating:  PG-13 for sci-fi action and terror, and brief strong language

Cast: Kristen Stewart, Vincent Cassel, Jessica Henwick, Mamoudou Athie, John Gallagher Jr. and T.J. Miller

Credits: Directed by William Eubank, script by Brian Duffield and Adam Cozan. A 20th Century Fox release.

Running time: 1:35

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