The Atlantic Ocean. The US submarine USS Tiger Shark is instructed
to pick up survivors from a U-boat attack on a British hospital
ship but, by the time it arrives, finds that only three of
the passengers and crew are still alive. And once that trio
is brought aboard, the boat begins to suffer a series of strange,
possibly supernatural events...
movies get buried because they are, quite simply, awful. Others
get lost in the politics that surround any change of studio
head. Then there's a third group - good films that suffer
serious mistreatment because someone, somewhere is a prat.
Below is definitely in that last category.
in the US last October to generally good reviews, the film
nevertheless got minimal publicity from distributor Miramax/Dimension
and now seems to be suffering much the same fate on DVD (UK
plans for the film are uncertain. Although it has been sent
to the censor for classification, it has dropped off its British
distributor's release schedule).
from Below's quality, there are other reasons why Miramax's
decision is puzzling. The film is also the latest from Pitch
Black director David Twohy and features a script co-penned
by Darren Arononofsky (Pi, Requiem For A Dream), one
of the most exciting of Hollywood's upcoming talents. Beyond
that, it piggy backs on a submarine genre recently given new
life by U-571, and features a cast that, while not
A list, highlights some of Britain and America's better character
let's get back to basics. This is a good, fun and beautifully
mounted movie. Twohy skilfully blends traditional underwater
thrills with plenty of tricks from the haunted house genre
- indeed it's hard to think of a much better, but largely
untried location for some claustrophobic spiritual shenanigans.
After the unforgivable bollix that was The Haunting
remake, here's a satisfying mystery that dumps OTT SFX for
atmosphere, a good script, satisfying twists and strong performances
- more Robert Wise than Jan de Bont, if you will.
there are plenty of familiar reference points - there's even
some very tidy but unobtrusive CGI - but while this might
not relocate its 'spectres' to quite so terrifying an effect
as Alien, it's a story well executed both structurally
and visually (with a special nod due to director of cinematography
Ian Wilson). Also by opting for actors rather than stars,
Twohy gets the story played out with conviction, a big help
not only as the film builds to its peep-through-the-fingers
finale but also in skipping over the inevitable hole or two
in the plot.
are two standout performances. RSC actress Olivia Williams
(Rushmore) is excellent as one of the survivors. Bruce
Greenwood (a fantastic JFK in the equally neglected Thirteen
Days) matches her as the boat's captain. However, the
rest of the cast in this effective ensemble piece all emerge
with credit, even Lock Stock's Jason Flemyng as he
successfully tries out a Yank accent and emerging teen idol
you think I'm avoiding the plot, I have good reason. As with
Pitch Black, Below works best if you know only the
bare bones in advance. Twohy is a crafty director who enjoys
playing with the perspectives of both the audience and the
characters themselves. He manages a masterful shift in our
idea of just who the 'bad' guys really are about 30 minutes
in, for instance, and there is still plenty more to come.
There haven't been that many directors to emerge in the last
five or so years with the ability to tell a tall tale well,
but Twohy is certainly one of them.
said that Miramax have neglected marketing the film, the DVD
package is pretty good. Twohy and several cast members contribute
an entertaining and generally informative commentary, that
only occasionally lapses into 'friends reunited' mode.
There is also a useful clutch of deleted scenes. These mainly
illustrate how Twohy actually toned down the action content
because it clashed with the creepy tone he really wanted.
Unfortunately, though, these cuts do not include scenes the
director mentions in his commentary which were shot to give
Williams' character an intriguing 'iron lung' back story.
Finally, a featurette takes a more interesting than usual
look at the way certain key sequences were shot. All these
additions show that a lot of time and care went into this
movie, and it is there in the finished product.
the technical specs front, the anamorphic transfer emphasises
the eerie lighting with no loss of overall clarity, while
a good Dolby 5.1 mix gives full voice to the atmospheric mix
and Graham Revell's rich orchestral score.
should at least be thankful that DVD will give audiences a
chance to enjoy Twohy's movie much as he would have liked
(assuming they are aware it has been released), and a trip
to your favourite importer is definitely recommended. It still
would have been fun to see an audience react to its moody
tension and frequent scares.
back against the dross we do have to put up with in our multiplexes
- Daredevil on three screens, for pity's sake? - and
buy this movie to right a disgraceful wrong.
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