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USD $1 ₱ 56.97 0.0000 April 17, 2024
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‘Underwater’ and the Advantages and Disadvantages of Withholding Information

You can only go so far with withholding information before we start to feel like we are being strung along, and that’s not fun.

Director William Eubank and screenwriters Brian Duffield and Adam Cozad do an amazing job beginning ‘Underwater’ by telling us and showing us nothing. There is no first act in the movie. There’s no set up where we get to see the character and we establish normality. The movie begins with news articles about a company called Tian that is drilling at the Mariana Trench. And that’s it.

We are then introduced to Kristen Stewart’s Norah as she is brushing her teeth and giving a narration of how all sense of time is lost when you are so far underwater. And then, like in the trailer, the underwater complex begins to implode and Norah must find a way back to the surface.


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It’s a delicate balance, narratively, to come into a story knowing nothing about the characters or the context of the situation. ‘Underwater’ trusts the concept of people trapped in the farthest depths of the ocean. With Kristen Stewart delivering a solid, vulnerable performance, she carries the film along as the writers and directors start feeding us information piece by piece.

For Norah is not alone. There are other survivors in the initial implosion of certain areas of the complex. But with their direct route back to the surface completely cut-off, Norah and the rest of the survivors must travel on the ocean floor to get to the drilling platform where more escape pods are available. Except they are not alone. The drilling had awakened something and it’s vicious.


Throughout the whole movie, Eubank, Cozad, and Duffield are sparing with details. Character backstories, visibility within the movie, and geography of the complex instills thrills and genuine fear at the first half of the film. Capturing the imagery of what it’s like to be that far deep underwater with only their lights as the source, everything is shrouded in darkness. When the creature appears, it’s fleeting and you barely get a good look.


The effect is fun and makes for a wild ride. But as the story progresses, you need more to hold on to for it to work.

With the characters, they end up getting fleshed out enough. You get a sense of who they are and what they are about, most especially Stewart’s Norah, whose history is triggered by this event and the constant up close and personal dealings with so much death and destruction is taking its toll on her.

But as the movie hits the final act, we’ve seen very little of the creatures that gives us a satisfying understanding of what we are dealing with and there’s no real geography for us to follow, whether they are near or far from their destination. It demands too much trust from its audience that it becomes cloying.


You can only go so far with withholding information before we start to feel like we are being strung along and that’s not fun.

What I do appreciate about the film is the subversive implications the film makes with its anti-corporation and anti-big business symbolism and message. It is never amplified nor openly discussed but if you look closely, you will see lots of evidence that the company knew that this whole endeavour is unsafe and how they choose to react to what transpires in the film (which is shown at the end) tips off what the creators had in mind with the whole thing.

As creature features go, ‘Underwater’ has its moments. It’s very human despite its very inhumane environment and there’s much to enjoy with a strong emotional core holding it together. But when it comes to the adage of “less is more,” there is a feeling that the film gives us too little to work with for a truly satisfying end.


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