Drowns in cliches
Far be it from me to knock anything that counts “The Abyss” as its main inspiration too harshly but “Underwater” really is just kinda “blah.” It’s kinda like a 60 million dollar student film in Ridley Scott/James Cameron 101 class.
Kristen Stewart is Norah, a technician on an underwater rig who soon finds herself, along with some co-workers, having to work their way further down to some escape pods when the top half of the rig ends up flooded and destroyed.
The movie clearly is going for mood above character and plot, something which is established really well in the introductory scene. From there it’s a pretty treacherous journey walking through the rubble of what’s left of the rig, some of which is fairly intense. A scene where a character in a suit is introduced to water pressure doesn't quite reach the level of Ed Harris’ epic descent in “Abyss”, but here it’s a highlight despite its PG-13-ness.
Less effective is the jump scare-reach-out-and-grab-a-character stuff. It’s a cheap horror movie cliche and being that a lot of the action is filmed within the murkiness of the deep ocean, really not all that visible anyway.
Deep-sea alien life is introduced although not much of that makes a lick of sense, nor does the movie’s implication about the company all these people work for possibly having some nefarious intent.
Stewart (sporting an Eminem hair-do I guess is supposed to say “take me seriously in a big budget movie”) ably steps into the role of action heroine and in a better movie one might even say she plays a character. As is, we know she’s a little bit ahead of everyone else mostly because her name is above the marquee. Everyone else from T.J. Miller (I guess he was supposed to be comic relief), Iron Fist’s Jessica Henwick (who here is nothing more than a jittery side piece who screams at stuff a lot), and Vincent Cassell (playing the Captain) may as well be playing “Aqua-suit Guy 1, 2, and 3”.
Overall “Underwater” is a movie that occasionally makes you want to take notice but just try and sit through the many lulls without getting the urge to check your phone. Now that’s pressure!