Review of "Underwater"

The Tian corporation is making another attempt at putting an ultra-deep-sea oil drilling rig at the bottom of the Mariana Trench, seven miles underwater. Previous efforts have failed for mysterious reasons. The base where the crew is housed is called Kepler and the drilling rig is called Roebuck. One morning when mechanical engineer Norah Price (Kristen Stewart) is brushing her teeth, Kepler suffers massive structural failures, causing flooding and implosions. Price and Rodrigo Nagenda (Mamoudou Athie) go looking for emergency escape pods, but their way is blocked by more damage. As they try to find an escape from the ocean floor, they find fellow crewman Paul Abel (T.J. Miller) buried under rubble but unhurt. The pair digs him out and continue their search for safety. They find Captain Lucien (Vincent Cassel) unhurt and unsuccessfully trying to contact the surface. The four then head to the control room where they find biologist Emily Haversham (Jessica Henwick) and engineer Liam Smith (John Gallagher, Jr.) also unsuccessfully trying to contact the surface. None of them knows why Kepler is coming apart at the seams, but the leading theory is earthquakes. Captain Lucien suggests a plan where they don high-tech pressurized suits and walk the mile to Roebuck where they might be able to contact someone or access more escape pods. There chances of success are slim and even lower since the cause of all their problems is a mysterious creature lurking in the depths that is unhappy about the intrusion of humanity in its home.

January usually is a dumping ground for movies, especially the first couple of weeks. You get Oscar contenders that had limited releases in December, but the majority of new movies are the cast offs, the unwanted, the redheaded bastards at the family reunion. In other words, January is often the landfill where garbage movies go to die. That brings us to “Underwater.” Shot back in 2017, “Underwater” was made by 20th Century Fox prior to its purchase by Disney. What struggles the film and film makers had due to the change of ownership and the reason for the release delay are unknown, but it shouldn’t have taken over two years for the film to arrive in theaters. Maybe it got lost in the transition or maybe Fox and Disney execs saw the movie and decided to bury it. Whatever the reason, “Underwater” is a good example of a January film.

It isn’t that “Underwater” looks cheap. The sets and pressurized suits look like they could exist. While the characters sometimes use the technology in ways that don’t make sense or seem impossible, nothing in the film looks like it’s such a leap that it would be 100 years before it would be available.

The movie has a claustrophobic design to many of the sets. There are some larger room and long hallways, but most of the film takes place in narrow access shafts, small elevators, collapsed structures and inside the suits. If you feel tense while being in a confined space, you might want to skip “Underwater.”

My issues with the film are based more on the actions of the characters, including the monster, and how much of it doesn’t make sense. There are some very stereotypical horror film behaviors on display. For instance, late in the film, Norah is awestruck as she sees the monster, missing an opportunity to run away. There are a couple of characters that sacrifice themselves in ways that are supposed to be brave and unselfish but feel more like a screenwriter trying to force the audience to feel something for generic tropes. The monster misses some opportunities to take out most of the cast when they become separated. It seems omnipresent for patches of the film then disappears if the script needs it to. Even the design of the drilling facility doesn’t make much sense. If you need to get from Kepler to Roebuck, how do you do that? It isn’t clear if a transport train we see the survivors riding is how teams get to Roebuck or another part of the facility. Do they take subs? Are they sent there directly from the surface? If so, what is Kepler for? This is another example of me thinking too much about meaningless details, but if you put that much information in a movie it should make sense. There are other examples of little details that confused me but those would be spoilers. Much of “Underwater” doesn’t seem to care of it makes sense.

“Underwater” is rated PG-13 for sci-fi action and terror, and brief strong language. There are a couple of bloody deaths, including one where a body implodes. We see a couple of dead bodies amongst the wreckage of the destroyed station. Foul language is scattered.

Perhaps the best thing about “Underwater” is the monster. We don’t get a good look at the creature until near the end of the film and even then, it is somewhat hidden by the murkiness of the water. It resembles bits and pieces of other movie monsters including ones from “Cloverfield” and “Star Wars: Return of the Jedi.” I wish as much effort had been put into the story and the characters as the monster, then maybe “Underwater” would have been worth the trip to the theater. Sadly, generic characters behaving in nonsensical ways in a predictable story with a decent monster is what we are given. If you are forced to see this film, be ready to hold your breath.

“Underwater” gets two stars out of five.

Two new movies open this week. I’ll see and review at least one of the following:

Bad Boys for Life—

Dolittle—

Listen to Comedy Tragedy Marriage, a podcast about life, love and entertainment, available wherever you get podcasts. Follow me on Twitter @moviemanstan and send emails to stanthemovieman123@gmail.com.

Review of “Jason Bourne”

Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) is living an inconspicuous but brutal life as an underground fighter in Greece. He makes part of the money that is bet on him. Former CIA analyst Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) is now part of a Wikileaks-style organization that’s trying to expose covert operations. She hacks into the CIA and downloads files on 10 black ops programs including Treadstone, the operation of which Bourne was a part. The hack attracts the attention current Cyber Ops Division head Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander) who is able to place tracking software inside the files so, if they are accessed, they can be traced. CIA Director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones) is informed of the breach and becomes concerned when he is told it involves Parsons, a known associate of Jason Bourne, and contacts a CIA assassin known only as the Asset (Vincent Cassel). The Asset has a special grudge against Bourne and is looking to settle an old score. Also becoming aware of the security breach is software developer Aaron Kalloor (Riz Ahmed) who created a Facebook-like social media platform called Deep Dream that made him a billionaire. Kalloor got his start-up money from the CIA in exchange for backdoor access into his software. Kalloor is supposed to be giving the same ability to spy on everyone that uses his system with the next update but he wants to end that deal, afraid the breach will expose his previous involvement with unlimited intelligence gathering. Parsons finds Bourne in Greece and gives him the flash drive containing the files including information that Bourne’s father Richard Webb (Gregg Henry) was deeply involved in the creation and operation of Project Treadstone. Parsons, tracked by the CIA and spotted with Bourne, is killed by the Asset, sending Bourne on a worldwide journey to find out the truth about his father and to try and get out from under the constant threat of death from the CIA.

You can’t help but feel sorry for the character of Jason Bourne. All he wants is to be left alone and live his life. He doesn’t want to be a killer. He doesn’t want to be a target. He is just looking for peace and quiet. Sadly for the character, peace and quiet does not a good movie make so once again he is thrown into a worldwide conspiracy against him in “Jason Bourne.”

Matt Damon’s character has always been a man of few words but never fewer than in “Jason Bourne.” According to the Internet his character only speaks about 25 lines of dialog. Bourne usually lets his fists, his aim and his driving do the talking while allowing all the other characters to fill in any information we might need. That’s the thing about the “Bourne” movies…it’s the supporting characters that put most of the action in motion leaving poor Jason to defend himself from their efforts to kill him. Bourne is merely the puppet at the end of the strings, only able to go where he is dragged against his will. Bourne could be looked at as a metaphor for the way life drags all of us around against our will. We are constantly moving from one crisis to another, frequently created by others, and having to put forth the risk and effort to clean up the mess. While the stakes we face aren’t anywhere near as high as what Bourne must deal with there are still stakes just the same.

The cast of “Jason Bourne” is excellent with Damon leading the way. His portrayal of the damaged Bourne is particularly heartbreaking in this installment. Bourne looks tired. He’s fighting for his life, figuratively and literally, just trying to stay off the CIA’s radar. Damon plays the world weary Bourne as low key, keeping his head down, unable to get a full night’s sleep and haunted by his past. Flashbacks of his Treadstone training wake him with a start. He is like a trapped animal looking for a way out. Damon’s quiet performance embodies a man near the end of his rope looking for peace and only finding more reasons he must fight.

Alicia Vikander’s Heather Lee is probably the most dangerous person in the film. Her Cyber Ops Division job gives her tools and information on everything going on in the world and she’s ambitious. You are never quite sure whether Lee is trying to catch and kill Bourne or looking to help him get away. It’s a question that isn’t answered until the very end of the film. Her performance is also rather quiet and restrained, even when facing something akin to the good ol’ boy network at Langley. What makes Lee dangerous is you cannot see her plotting and devising schemes to aid in her rise. She wants power and that’s probably the most dangerous thing of all.

Tommy Lee Jones plays CIA Director Dewey as a man in charge. He doesn’t suffer fools lightly and can be quietly threatening. That veneer of calm and collectedness is hiding a volcano of anger that comes close to the surface if he feels threatened or questioned, as is the case with Lee as she questions his decisions in front of the Director of National Intelligence. Jones has played this kind of character before but his especially craggy face adds to the façade of a calm country boy and makes him that much more of a snake in the grass waiting for an unsuspecting victim to come by. As the movie moves on it becomes easy to dislike Dewey.

The “Bourne” series has never skimped on the car chases and violence. While always maintaining a PG-13 rating throughout the series, the film’s close combat fights always feel far more brutal and bloody than they show on screen. “Jason Bourne” is no exception to this with a spectacular car chase on the strip in Las Vegas and what may be the most vicious fight of the entire series. It comes near the end of the film and much of what occurs before it leads to a battle that is filled with rage and revenge on both sides. I found myself squirming in my seat as the throw down in a drainage tunnel under Las Vegas is shot in darkness with only scattered, reflected light giving the scene a personal and private feel that implies the audience really shouldn’t be watching what’s happening. While I have my issues with the series’ use of tight close ups and jittery handheld cameras, on further reflection that technique makes the audience feel as if they are a third participant in this specific fight. We are in the middle of a life-and-death struggle and it is uncomfortable. In that regard and for this particular fight, the technique is effective.

“Jason Bourne” is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and brief strong language. There are a couple of the underground fight scenes. One shows Bourne being beaten pretty badly. There are other fights and shootings. None are terribly bloody but, as stated earlier, the last fight is brutal. There are also car chases where several crashes occur. We don’t see any injuries (other than to Bourne)or deaths from these crashes. Foul language is scattered.

“Jason Bourne” is the fifth film in the series based on a character created by author Robert Ludlum. It is the fourth movie starring Matt Damon as the title character and the third film directed by Paul Greengrass. Publicly, Damon is open to making more Bourne films and that isn’t the worst thing in the world. They are certainly exciting and ask some painful questions about what price our society must be willing to pay in order to have safety; however, it might be nice to actually have Bourne faced with a threat from somewhere other than within the American intelligence community. Have him drawn in to a plot by outside forces to damage American interests and he is forced to join with the CIA to combat it. If Bourne is always fighting against his former bosses, that risks the franchise becoming a predictable and repetitive imitation of itself. That’s something Jason Bourne wouldn’t stand for.

“Jason Bourne” gets four guitars out of five.

This week, there are bad guys forced to do good and a bad dad turned into a cat. I’ll see and review at least one of the following:

Suicide Squad—

Nine Lives—

Follow me on Twitter @moviemanstan and send emails to stanthemovieman@comcast.net.