Tag Archives: Vincent Cassel

Review: Underwater

Year: 2020
Runtime: 95 Minutes
Writers: Brian Duffield & Adam Cozad
Director: William Eubank
Stars: Kristen Stewart, Vincent Cassel, Jessica Henwick, T.J. Miller

By Mique Watson

“When you’re underwater for months at a time, you lose all sense of day and night.” Kristen Stewart laments in voice-over as the film opens up; a hint at the potentially Lovecraftian elements to follow. Lovecraftian horror, (a subgenre of fictional horror which *checks notes* places an emphasis of cosmic horror of the unknown or unknowable–with big, giant creatures!), certainly puts the vampires and werewolves  Stewart faced in “Twilight” to shame.

Admittedly, the thought of Stewart going face-to-face with an enormous aquatic monster–while ruminating on loneliness, the unknowable, the concept of nature getting revenge on man–is ripe for potential. However, all this potential is completely wasted. Instead, we’re left with scavenged bits and pieces of other sci-fi/horror films, stitched together by a completely clueless studio (this was in development hell since it finished shooting in 2017) into a hellish, soulless, Frankenstein-ed monster of lazy, corporate by-the-numbers guck. “Underwater” is a godforsaken pastiche of Alien, Aliens, The Descent, Gravity, 47 Meters Down, Sanctum (the list goes on… not one single element here is not borrowed)… all of which, let’s establish, are far better than this pile of yawns and missed opportunities.

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Kristen Stewart plays Ellen Rip…err, I mean Norah Something, an engineer living several miles beneath the ocean’s surface. We first see her in a commons bathroom, helping a spider out of a strenuous situation. Perhaps this is meant to foreshadow her benevolence and selflessness and; perhaps–I thought–we’d get to learn a tad bit about both her and what the purpose of this deep-sea mission is… two seconds later, however, it is revealed that the people behind the film (writers: Brian Duffield & Adam Cozad; director: William Eubank) were like: “let’s skip the entire first act–the world-building, the setup for the characters and context of the story, basically everything a first act needs!–and go straight to the GOOD STUFF!”

“Underwater” is a godforsaken pastiche of Alien, Aliens, The Descent, Gravity, 47 Meters Down, Sanctum (the list goes on… not one single element here is not borrowed)…

So, an accident of catastrophic proportions happens and Norah, along with her crew (Jessica Henwick, Mamoudou Athie, John Gallagher Jr., T.J. Miller) and their captain (Vincent Cassel), realize they must journey–by foot–to an abandoned outpost that may or may not have escape pods for all of them. And so the journey by foot begins! And then it goes on, and on, and on…I am not exaggerating when I say that *at least* seventy percent of this film is them walking and getting stressed over their gradually depleting oxygen supply. At a point–well into the film’s obscenely protracted second act–they capture a mysterious creature that’s been chomping on a human corpse (10 points to you if you can spot which other little critter this one could potentially be a cousin of!).

They are (very late into the film) then hunted down by slimy, flesh-eating creatures (think the aliens from “X-Men: Dark Phoenix”, but with webbed hands and feet)–similar to the Alien films (which this tries so desperately to imitate), they get hunted down one by one. Unfortunately, the picture is so dark, you rarely ever know what is actually happening, or what anyone is doing (imagine shooting a film with an opaque camera lens–that’s what this looks like).

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There’s nothing wrong with being coy about the monster your protagonists are up against. But you must ensure that there are some other interesting things going. If you’re going to forego any and all forms of human drama (it’s embarrassing what this film thinks passes for that), at least have a running theme with metaphors about humanity and its impact on the natural world–and conversely, how the natural world answers back. What we have here is something that thinks it’s doing the latter–“We did this!” a marine biologist wails. “We took too much! We’re not supposed to be down here!”; but we’re given no evidence of this–what exactly have *you* done? What exactly have *you* taken?

This thing also fails at making us care about what dominates the screen: people, shot mostly in-closeups, who might as well have been made of cardboard.

I’m all for a movie wanting to focus entirely on “coolness” of the monsters on display. But for this work, it’d have to be–and this may sound like a completely novel idea!–about the monsters. Perhaps show us the threat this monster and its spawns pose to humanity? But this movie doesn’t even give us that–it’s anticlimactic and rushed finale is devoid of any fun, suspense, or palpable dread. It is a complete and utter watery mess that doesn’t offer up nearly enough creature carnage to support its already truncated run time.

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This thing also fails at making us care about what dominates the screen: people, shot mostly in-closeups, who might as well have been made of cardboard. Here we have a film where random characters (I dare you to try and remember any of their names) yell things like “I must go” and “You need to make it back up there” and “I’ll go last!” whenever they’re confronted with danger–yet, we have no appreciation for the “motivations” behind any of these noble acts.

In the end, you have a product which feels unfinished; the lack of dialogue makes it look almost like a series of stock footage stitched together for the sole purpose of creating something that resembles a serviceable movie (it doesn’t). The Lovecraftian breadcrumbs (presumably thrown in during post-production; blink and you’ll miss ‘em!) do nothing to help this godforsaken thing. When you gaze into this water abyss; the abyss yawns back.

0 stars

 

 

“Irreversible” Analysis: A Condemnation of Violence Against Women and its Depiction in Film

Please note, the below article refers to sexual violence and depiction of rape and therefore may not be suitable for all readers

By Mique Watson

You might have heard of this film’s controversy–that it garnered hundreds of walkouts when it premiered at Cannes, while on the other hand–those that stayed sang praises about it. One wonders whether or not they’d like to even give a kind of film like this an attempt; and in truth, this is an extremely difficult film to recommend (and I’ve gotten friends to watch Pascal Laugier’s “Martyrs”–but this is one a whole other level).

The camerawork is dizzying, the color palette is muddy with gaudy fiery colors, the score (The film’s soundtrack was composed by Thomas Bangalter, one half of the electronic music duo Daft Punk) throbs with a frequency that is sickening–and the overall effect it has on the viewer is not one that is–in any way, shape, or form–pleasant. Like most of Gasper Noe’s films, each individual scene in this film is a single, uncut shot; some scenes going on for 20 minutes at a time.

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Happier Times: Alex & Marcus

This posts both a challenge to the cast and leaves us both in wonder at the film maker’s technique, but also staring at the screen in utter horror (I personally had to fast-forward) when the infamous 15-minute long rape scene happens. Alex is disgustingly violated on the concrete floor of a deserted underground tunnel; Noe doesn’t shoot this scene in any way that fetishizes the attack; he forces the viewer to understand the gravity of the awfulness that many women all around the world are subjected to on a daily basis–the acts of utter cruelty that humans are capable of inflicting on one another are soul-crushing.

The film has quite a heavy message, and a serious purpose in order to justify its existence. And, the whole notion that Noe hasn’t intended to fetishize this, is probably the only consolation any viewer with the fortitude (and stomach) to make it to the end will have. The best indicator that proves how this film is ultimately positing an anti-rape message is the fact that the whole film is told backward (like Christopher Nolan’s “Memento”).

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Before the rape takes place

What happens at the beginning of the film is so horrific and haunting, that it casts a dour shadow over the rest of the film. Even seeing the couple basking in the afterglow of their lovemaking–with golden-hour sunset hues tinting the room with the color of rich honey–you can’t help but recall the horrific events that were on display prior, and this seemingly blissful moment has a shadow of despair and inevitability cast over it.

“Noe’s choice to tell this story in this way makes the violence and rape something that does not happen in the film’s climax, as an exploitatively trashy B-movie would have it.”

This wouldn’t have worked if this film was told in chronological order. It centers around a couple,  Alex (Monica Bellucci) and Marcus (Vincent Cassel); Noe is a provocateur who is not one to shy away from displaying sex and nudity in his films. After the aforementioned scene of them making love, they end up at a party–Alex is seen in a revealing, tight dress that emphasizes Bellucci’s beautiful figure; thus, she is flirted with as people in the backdrop of the party speak about her with derision at her immodest fashion.  A friend of the couple, Pierre (Albert Dupontel), who–it is revealed–was a former lover of Alex.

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Marcus, Alex and Pierre on the way to the party

After this setup, one thing leads to another and Alex storms out of the party as she walks en route to her home. She makes her way down to this subway tunnel, when she is then confronted by Le Tenia (Jo Prestia)–what happens next is a rape scene so dragged out and horrific that it will certainly distress the most steeled of viewers. Subsequently, Marcus and Pierre explore the midnight streets of Paris for La Tenia, which leads to them happening on an S&M club, where the rest of the horrific incidents transpire.

All of this is purposefully told in reverse order; the film starts off with the events documenting the aftermath of the search for La Tenia and so on… Noe’s choice to tell this story in this way makes the violence and rape something that does not happen in the film’s climax, as an exploitatively trashy B-movie would have it.  Because we, and not the character are aware of what is to happen, we feel saddened as we think about how the film starts whilst we watch how happy the couple is at the beginning.

“Irreversible” proves to be both a scathing condemnation of how films have pornographically depicted violence against women and in turn, how our culture sexualizes women and victim-blames them.”

Also, because we see Marcus’ revenge occur prior to the graphic rape scene, the film’s effect is different: had this been told in chronological order; we’d see this as a story punishing Alex for her choice of attire and her promiscuous dancing; it would be a nasty film about slut-shaming.

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Alex dancing at the party

It can then safely infer that Noe’s ire is geared toward the rapist, and not Alex., This, in turn, pushes back on the notion that women and what they wear are should be blamed when they are assaulted; in reality, it is the men who choose to do the assaulting that are to be blamed, and Noe reinstates that with every shot of this film.

All this, coupled with the fact that the film, ending where it does, depicts Alex as a human being, and doesn’t reduce her to a sex object whose only purpose is to appear in a titillating rape scene (spoiler alert: there is nothing titillating about this rape scene; it is bloody, graphic, cold, cruel, and utterly horrific to endure).

This is a film that is unflinching in its depiction of rape, and it is brutally honest in that regard. “Irreversible” proves to be both a scathing condemnation of how films have pornographically depicted violence against women and in turn, how our culture sexualizes women and victim-blames them when they are subjected to cruel acts at the hands of men.

Rating: Five Out Of Five Stars