Arts

Lacklustre sub-aquatic thriller Underwater a waste of Kristen Stewart's talents

Kristen Stewart confronts unspeakable horrors beneath the waves in action thriller Underwater

Kristen Stewart as Nora Price in Underwater
Damon Smith

SEVEN miles beneath the surface of the Pacific Ocean, no-one can hear you scream.

Director William Eubank soaks up inspiration from the Alien franchise and The Abyss to plug holes in a water-logged sci-fi horror, which pits a small crew of hapless humans against gnarled creatures, which have been disturbed by our relentless plundering of the planet's resources.

"We're not supposed to be down here," whispers one hastily sketched character, hammering home the message that Mother Nature has every right to retaliate against greedy intruders.

Those ominous words could apply to Eubank's pedestrian, derivative jaunt, which systemically feeds the cast to monstrosities that lurk in the dark until the most likely suspects take a courageous final stand.

Kristen Stewart's tormented heroine, who is scarred by a tragedy that parachutes abruptly into conversation in the final reel, is modelled heavily on Sigourney Weaver's Ripley, replete with breathless sprints down labyrinthine corridors in figure-hugging undergarments.

A couple of action sequences are rendered incomprehensible by the light-starved, sub-aquatic setting and, when characters abandon common sense to linger in a claustrophobic location or stray where they shouldn't, you can comfortably brace for a jump shock.

Nora Price (Stewart) is a Tian Industries mechanical engineer at the Kepler drilling station perched close to the crescent-shaped Mariana Trench.

A devastating tremor causes catastrophic failures to the station's integrity and most of the crew perish as the structure implodes.

Nora sprints to temporary safe haven with fellow engineer Rodrigo Nagenda (Mamoudou Athie) where she is reunited with Captain Lucien (Vincent Cassell) and three fellow survivors – research assistant Emily Haversham (Jessica Henwick), her sweetheart Liam Smith (John Gallagher Jr) and teddy bear-obsessed oaf Paul Abel (TJ Miller).

A detailed assessment of the station's functionality reveals that an energy core meltdown will decimate what remains of the Kepler facility.

Captain Lucien proposes a daring course of action: slip into pressurised body suits and undertake a perilous one-mile walk in the dark along the bottom of the ocean to neighbouring Roebuck Station.

In the inky void, the group encounter a small, deformed creature with taloned tentacles that appears to be feeding on bodies of co-workers.

"It's probably not a good time to ask but is that a baby?" quips Paul, pointing to the tiny creature as something larger and deadlier floats unseen a few metres away.

Underwater doesn't waste time treading aqua before Stewart and co-stars are soaked, bleeding and staring death in the face.

The script's hurried approach to storytelling gives us little time to contemplate minor crimes against logic or clunky dialogue.

The cast embrace the physical demands of their underwritten roles, while Miller makes the most of limited screen time as the designated comic relief.

A tepid romantic subplot is surplus to requirements and poses a moral dilemma that can only have one lacklustre outcome.

Rating: 4/10

UNDERWATER (15, 95 mins) Action/Sci-Fi/Horror/Thriller/Romance. Kristen Stewart, Vincent Cassell, TJ Miller, Jessica Henwick, John Gallagher Jr, Mamoudou Athie. Director: William Eubank.

Released: February 7

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