Eye For Film >> Movies >> Deep Blue Sea (1999) Film Review
Deep Blue Sea
Reviewed by: Stephen Carty
Let’s be honest, a Renny Harlin movie is never going to win any little gold statues. Sure, his pictures have visual flair and he blows things up more creatively than most (he’s kind of a thinking man’s Michael Bay), but the Finnish director is known for making action movies that require little brain power and lots of suspended disbelief. Actually, make that lots and lots.
However, that’s not to say they’re awful viewing. Die Hard 2 had the vest-wearing John McClane squaring off against the T-1000 (well, Robert Patrick, but same thing) at an airport and Cliffhanger was bags of snowy mountain-jumping fun. Thankfully, Deep Blue Sea is also pretty easy to like if you can accept it for what it is – minimal intellectual input, maximum shark carnage.
Aboard the sea-based research station Aquatica, a team of scientists (Saffron Burrows, Stellan Skarsgard, Jacqueline McKenzie) use genetically-modified sharks to try to find a cure for Alzheimer’s. However, after an accident, the creatures get loose and, as a side-effect of the genetic alterations, use their enhanced smarts to hunt the humans on board. With only a matter of time before the stations sinks, the survivors – including the financer (Samuel L Jackson), a shark handler (Thomas Jane), an engineer (Michael Rapaport) and the cook (LL Cool J) – try to make it out alive.
The genuine tension and thrills mean there’s more to it than just a dumb sequence of jagged teeth and explosions, but this is a straightforward actioner all the way. After a longer set-up than you’d think (don’t worry, the limb-chomping is coming) we dive right into the shark-infested deep end and rarely stop until the credits role.
And the plot? Well, it has as many holes in it as our gang’s torsos do after a toothy attack. Still, it’s exactly what you’d expect from this kind of flick; scene-setting and intro, things unexpectedly (predictably) go wrong, contrivances ensue… our gang have to make it through a series of danger zones while getting picked off one by one. Indeed, given the recognisable blueprint and familiar genre staples, Harlin’s fin-fest plays like a crossbreed of Aliens, Die Hard, Predator and The Abyss.
Importantly though, the all-too easy Jaws comparisons need to be left at the portside door. Aside from the gliding villains and their ‘shark-cam’ (we occasionally see things from their viewpoint), Harlin’s latest has almost nothing in common with the classic shark tale. Where Spielberg’s rookie effort was a masterful exercise in suspenseful horror where we barely saw the beast (letting our imagination do its worst), here it’s in-your-face devourings all the way.
Also, while The Beard used a mixture of minimally-used models, real-sharks and John Williams’ unforgettable theme to create the gilled-predators, Harlin uses a mix of CGI and animatronics. And the result? Well, though the digital creations are never less than obvious, the model work is frequently remarkable.
Though boasting seasoned pros, including Skarsgard and Jackson (I wouldn’t stand there if I was you…) the best turns come from relative newcomer Jane and rapper-turned actor Cool J. On the one hand, the flint-jawed Jane makes for a fine de facto hero and on the other Mr Cool J gets all the best lines (“Brothers never make it out of these situations alive”).
When all is said and done, Renny Harlin has delivered another fun, leave-your-brain-at-the-door movie which is sure to elevate your excitement levels. It might not make any ripples intellectually, but in terms of action it’s guaranteed to make waves.Reviewed on: 16 Jul 2009