Below (2002)

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Director: David Twohy.

Writer: Lucas Sussman, Darren Aronofsky
Starring: Holt McCallany, Bruce Greenwood, Dexter Fletcher, Nick Chinlund, Olivia Williams, Jason Flemyng, Tim Plester, Zach Galifianakis, Christopher Fairbank. USA/UK. 1h 45m.

This was a curious film, an underwater mystery that take a while to get going but it does turn up the atmospherics in the later half.

A handful of survivors are plucked from a damaged ship and brought aboard the USS Tiger Shark submarine that’s on patrol in the Atlantic Ocean during WWII. A conscientious doctor a wounded soldier and a few others become welcomed guests on a sub with more mysterious than the Mary Celeste.

The newly appointed captain details that they have recently sunk a German vessel and lost their captain in the process, the new leader Lieutenant Brice (Bruce Greenwood) is a bit shifty but due to the tense situation and his backup Lieutenant Paul Loomis (Holt McCallany) by his side they get about their duties. Soon they are detected by the Germans and the Tiger Shark is ultimately crippled by the constant attacks and after a German is found aboard and suspected of signalling to his comrades a spate of mysterious deaths begin and things become a little Silent Hill, which is rather spooky when you’re trapped in a sub with enemy bombs above you..

“Try not to fraternize with the men, they can be a little… strange.”

The concept it solid, and there is a great story underneath this film but something get’s lost in translations, originally written by Aronofsky who did aim to make the movie but instead did Requiem for a Dream (2000) the film would have benefitted from someone with a wider vision, even despite the confines of a WWII sub, a lot could have been expanded here. The film seems hypnotised on the mystery surrounding the death of Lieutenant Brice (Bruce Greenwood) which is important but then the end gets rushed, and it’s these later scenes when things get really dark and supernatural, these later scenes make the film unique, because otherwise it’s just another sub movie.

“Grow some dicks and shut up!”

Bascically this is an underwater Deathwatch (2002) and I hope I’m not giving too much away, but it seems that film directors will never lose grasp of the ghosts of war. There is some gripping drama from the blend of British and American actors, strangely there is a crossover which results in some strange accents, but over all Olivia Williams does a convincing job as a dedicated doctor and Holt McCallany gives a lot of power to his role as the heroic Lieutenant.When things really start kicking off, there are some interesting use of effects, a frozen dreamlike stasis is created onboard as the brilliant engineer tries to work out how to get the crew out of a state of “purgatory” and the editing gets more erratic until the climactic scenes.

For me it’s a missed chance as a great horror movie, but it refuses to take that leap into the darkness, it is a good thriller, probably more enjoyable for those who like to pick holes in the accuracy of historical war films. but for me it just simmers away, best scene… a naked McCallany being tossed around the ship (sounds dirtier than it really is)…

 

Rating 5/10

RPressure (2015), Harbinger Down (2015), Das Boot (1981), Deathwatch(2002),The Bunker(2001).
L – Sub Flicks, Ghosts of War, Purgatory on Film
5S – Jason Flemyng, Dexter Fletcher
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