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Review: The ‘Alien’-inspired ‘Underwater’ is a Seaworthy Creature Feature

January 8, 2020Ben MK

One of the most iconic and influential sci-fi films of all time, Ridley Scott's Alien — not to mention its follow-up, James Cameron's Aliens — has paved the way for numerous similar movies over the years. It has even spawned its own sub-genre, whose latest entry finds the crew of an underwater drilling rig fighting for their lives against some fearsome aliens of the deep.

In Underwater, Kristen Stewart plays Nora, a scientific researcher under the employ of mega-conglomerate Tian Industries, which has constructed a network of manned stations at the bottom of the Mariana Trench as part of its deep-sea mining operations. But when the company awakens something menacing beneath the ocean floor, Nora, four of her crewmates (Mamoudou Athie, T.J. Miller, Jessica Henwick and John Gallagher Jr.) and their dutiful captain (Vincent Cassel) must fend off attacks from a monstrous, never-before-seen species, as they struggle to escape a watery tomb and make their way to the surface.

Plot-wise, there isn't much else to say about the film, which could otherwise be viewed as a spiritual successor to 1989's Leviathan, another cult classic that paid homage to Alien, which also saw a group of deep-sea miners coming face-to-face with mysterious creatures best left undisturbed. Yet, despite the lack of originality at hand, director William Eubank's third feature remains entertaining to watch, due in large part to some spectacular set-piece action sequences and a committed performance from Stewart, who draws not only from Sigourney Weaver's Ellen Ripley, but from her own repertoire of strong-willed female protagonists.

The human element and the filmmakers' adoration for Alien aside, the result also succeeds as a stellar creature feature, thanks to some effectively gruesome special and visual effects that evoke the likes of Cloverfield, Pacific Rim and even the Resident Evil movies. Suffice to say, viewers with an affinity for any or all of the above ought to find great pleasure in Underwater, especially its final act, which more than pays off the suspense built by screenwriters Brian Duffield and Adam Cozad in the film's early goings.

Much like 2017's Life, which saw an equally impressive cast do battle with a slithering creature not of this world, it all adds up to a solid, albeit somewhat forgettable, exercise in survival horror. That said, if an Alien-inspired deep-sea thriller is what you crave, Underwater will most definitely float your boat.

Underwater releases January 9th, 2020 from 20th Century Fox Canada. The film has an MPAA rating of PG-13 for sci-fi action and terror, and brief strong language. Its runtime is 1 hr. 35 min.

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