Kristen Stewart, Jessica Henwick, John Gallagher Jr. and Vincent Cassel star, directed by William Eubank.
By plunging the audience directly into a crisis, Underwater immediately sets itself apart from standard-issue thrillers.
It’s a welcome, yet risky move. Rather than waste its first act establishing a stock set of relatable characters, most of whom will be disposable anyway, the film races to show that the situation itself deserves immediate empathy. After all, imagine if it were you or your friends who were stuck at the bottom of an ocean in an underground science station that suddenly went ka-boom!
You’d be freaking out, too, no matter if you were Kristen Stewart or not.
The actress portrays Norah, a scientist who is quick on her feet and even faster with her thinking ability. She survives the initial disaster, which strands her and a few other lucky (?!) survivors in an untenable position. Most of the crew has already evacuated the station, leaving Captain Lucien (Vincent Cassel) straining to rescue the few newbies who were stuck further away from possible escape, and didn’t act quickly enough to get away.
Their only remaining option, he explains with great urgency, is to walk across the floor of the ocean to another submerged station, where they can radio for help. That sounds daunting enough, but then they all become aware of even more dangers in the deep dark depths.
Directed by William Eubank (Love, The Signal) from a screenplay by Brian Duffield and Adam Cozad, Underwater is a terse and tight thriller that benefits from actors who are willing to show their sheer fright at the situation, which goes a long way toward enhancing the feelings of claustrophobia that predominate. Kristen Stewart, who once upon a time portrayed a trapped, yet steely-nerved young woman in David Fincher’s Panic Room (2002), here plays a trapped, yet steely-nerved woman who is determined to do everything within her power to survive.
She is aided and abetted by costars, including Vincent Cassel as a courageous leader, John Gallagher Jr. as a knowledgeable sort of klutz, Jessica Henwick as a resilient woman who is scared out of her mind, and Mamodou Athie as a brave and determined scientist. T.J. Miller is also present, perhaps intended as comic relief, which he can supply only on an occasional, sporadic basis.
Mostly, Underwater just flows in a madly-dancing current of charged electricity and constantly firing live wires that work constantly to shred nerves.
The film opened in Dallas, Fort Worth and surrounding cities on January 10, 2020. It is now available to watch via a variety of VOD platforms, including FandangoNow. For more information, visit the official site.