Some critics are describing “Underwater” as “Alien” in the ocean. And they are not too far off base with that description. But it’s just different enough that audiences will enjoy it for the jump scares, and a strong performance by its star.
The latest offering from Disney/Fox stars Kristen Stewart. She’s an unwitting leader of a team of researchers who have to walk across the ocean floor to get to a safer place after a deep-sea drilling disaster destroys their sea station. Add to that some creepy ghost-like sea creatures and one big bad sea monster hell bent on stopping them from reaching their destination and you’ve got, well, “Alien” in the ocean.
Stewart plays Norah, a computer whiz and incredibly resilient crew member who tries to save her crewmates by leading them on this dangerous expedition. The film follows a tried and true disaster movie plot with Stewart’s believable commitment to survival being a major highlight of the film.
A lot of the scenes underwater do a beautiful job of creating a claustrophobic, breathless feeling that comes from being confined in a water exploration suit. Norah’s fear is so palpable throughout the film that it feeds really well into the jump scares.
Stewart says the role was as physically demanding as it looks on screen.
“I’m pretty claustrophobic. I’m not the strongest swimmer, not because I’m not physically inclined. I’m just scared of the idea of being subject to something so powerful,” Stewart said.
She says she took on the role because of the challenges presented in the script. And the self-discovery of her character throughout the film.
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“The whole time you’re wondering who this person is and what does she have to fight for,” Stewart says. “It was very, sort of, explorative and existential.”
Most of the jump scares come from the creepy sea creatures that we never really learn much about. The characters only reference their presence, as well as the big bad sea monster, as being a result of mother nature fighting back against the human interlopers.
“Underwater” starts off with a bang, literally, and never lets up. It’s truly Stewarts’ film, and she draws you into this world, no matter how silly things get under the sea.
“Underwater” opens Jan. 10th. It stars Kristen Stewart, Vincent Cassel, T.J. Miller, John Gallagher Jr., Jessica Henwick, and Mamoudou Athie. It was directed by William Eubank.