July 14, 2024
1 Solar System Way, Planet Earth, USA

Netflix's Under Paris is every killer shark movie rolled into one

Conventional wisdom says there are two ways to make a shark attack movie. You can place it in the sea, where most sharks live, and try to use it. character, plot, compelling actionand maybe over-eaters to make your story feel unique. Or you can attract viewers by placing sharks somewhere where no one expects sharks to be. flying through the air and landing all over Los Angeles! Wandering the streets of downtown New Orleans! Swimming in the snow at a ski resort.! Coming out of the ground in the jungle! Most filmmakers who choose the latter path have to abandon any sense of reality and embrace the absurd. Netflix's French thriller Under Parisof Hitman director Xavier Gens, is a bold attempt to have it all.

Gens and co-writers Maud Heywang and Yannick Dahan seem to want their thriller to be both a serious, thoughtful, character-driven film and a pulpy, gory thriller in which a computer-generated shark turns people into friends in the City. of the light. That plot stretches credibility at every point, but Gens refuses to give ground on the tone or realism expected of a “shark in an impossible place” movie. Instead, he puts on the most serious face he can.

Still, it is a extremely Silly and not particularly scary movie.

Sophia (Bérénice Bejo) in close-up, diving underwater at night in dark waters with a bright red light behind her in Xavier Gens' Netflix shark thriller, Under Paris.

Image: Netflix

Best Actress Oscar nominee Bérénice Bejo (The artist) plays Sophia, a marine researcher whose shark tagging project It all went horribly wrong when a mako designated as “Lilith” attacked their diving team years ago. Traumatized to the point of spending most of the film with an unchanging, half-determined/half-lost expression, Sophia ends up in Paris, giving rambling lectures about aquariums to bratty school groups.

Her past resurfaces (along with a family fin) when fervent young activist Mika (Léa Léviant) contacts her on behalf of a resistance group called SOS, or Save Our Seas. Mika's team hacks into wildlife tagging systems to disable them so that fishing boats can't use them to locate the animals' locations. SOS is tracking Lilith's tag and they have tracked her to the Seine. Mika, her hacktivist friend Ben (Nagisa Morimoto), and her group want to save the shark by luring it back to the ocean. Sophia just wants to prevent the Parisians from being eaten by a deep-sea shark they don't expect to find in a relatively shallow freshwater river.

As much as this premise seems like cult movie nonsense aimed at fans of sleazy creature features, there's at least a little bit of science behind it. Sharks have been found in The Thames River in Englandsome species of sharks can navigate freshwater or transition from rivers to oceans and vice versaand the decline of habitats and rising global temperatures have pushed many animal species to behave in strange or evolve rapidly to adapt to new ecosystems. (The film also draws heavily on recent real-world attempts to detoxify the Seine so that it can be used in the 2024 Olympic Games).

Police Sergeant Adil (Nassim Lyes) and a fellow cop, both soaked and in tactical gear, press themselves against a stone wall in an underground Parisian cistern in Xavier Gens' Netflix shark thriller, Under Paris.

Photo: Sofie Gheysens/Netflix

All of which does Under Paris one of the most important of many water attack horror movies that they have tried Costa following in the footsteps of Steven Spielberg Jaws, at least for most of its running time. The protagonists are established actors with well-earned reputations who project a somber and moving determination. The cinematography is sharp and gorgeously lit, something that stands out in an era of murky cinema. The themes, about climate change and generational discord, have some resonance. At almost every turn, this film asks viewers to take everything at face value.

Gens and his co-writers don't want to be too clever about any of the film's details. Every time a character raises the implausibility of an immense mako wiping out the Parisians, Sophia changes the subject as quickly as possible, with a clear “You didn't question it.” when I was a beluga whale!” or a throwaway comment about climate change and evolution.

Filling the script with characters and plot threads seems like a similar distraction, designed to keep people from thinking too much about what they're seeing. That might be the best explanation for most of the scenes involving Nassim Lyes, the protagonist of Gens. recent hard-hitting action movie Violence!, as sergeant. Adil, the leader of a disturbingly militarized River Brigade police force that monitors the Seine, taking down unauthorized divers and kayakers. His group, naturally, first refuses to believe that a shark exists, then refuses to entertain the idea of ​​rescuing it instead of killing it.

Sophia (Bérénice Bejo), a tiny figure in a black diving suit, hangs below the surface of a trash-strewn stretch of ocean as an immense shark approaches her head-on in Xavier Gens' Netflix shark thriller, Under Paris.

Image: Netflix

A surprising percentage of Under Paris'The 101-minute runtime focuses on Adil and others arguing and trying to prove or disprove the shark's existence. Sometimes that is a tedious process, since the audience already knows the answer. But at least it's a way to solve one of the biggest problems facing most high-seas shark attack movies: how to keep people coming back into the water, where they can be dramatically devoured. Eventually, though, the action ramps up, and at that point Gens swerves, abandoning seriousness and turning the film into the pulpy, over-the-top, eye-rolling movie he'd worked so hard to avoid.

If you want to define the “two ways to make a shark movie” divided along an even simpler axis, you could also say that the basic paths are “Copycat Jaws for all you're worth” and “Do literally anything else.” Again, Under Paris It has it both ways. At first, Gens and company create unique characters and chart their own path. They then introduce the Grand International Swimming Event that is about to take place in the Seine, and the mercenary and irrational mayor who refuses to cancel it just because they keep killing people. Suddenly, the film seems like a pale echo of Spielberg's masterpiece, following his playbook line by line, until the obligatory scene in which Sophia makes a dramatic discovery during a shark autopsy.

But when the inevitable bloodbath begins, Under Paris Instead, it appears to be ripping off much more complicated shark attack movies: an improbable bisection of a diver straight out of deep blue seamixed with 3D PiranhaThe barrage of over-the-top CG aquatic action. All of which leaves Under Paris feeling like a slapdash attempt to capture every possible audience at once, in a way that doesn't fully serve any of them.

A group of River Brigade police officers travel by boat on the Seine River in front of the Eiffel Tower in Xavier Gens' Netflix shark thriller, Under Paris.

Photo: Sofie Gheysens/Netflix

None of this strange tone-shifting, imitation, or narrative overcrowding would matter if Under Paris It was tense, scary and attractive. Scientists and researchers complain that the endless stream of movies about killer sharks has irrational fear driven towards animals that are generally not that dangerous, but it seems quite natural for viewers to maintain a fascination and fear around primordial killers that most victims will never see coming. Movies about killer sharks, both of the ridiculously ridiculous “land sharks gone mad” variety and the at least mildly plausible ones, will continue to be made as long as people remember their first experience watching them. Jaws and I hope to recreate that exciting tension.

But regardless of which way filmmakers lean toward a shark movie, they have to bring something worthwhile to that mode. Under Paris it hits the middle of the road on all fronts (drama, thrills, horror, character conflict, messages of humanity versus nature) and not much more than that. It's a movie destined to be surpassed within a year by its own “every shark attack in Under Paris“YouTube supercut, when someone realizes how easy it would be to reduce this distracting, everything-and-the-kitchen-sink movie into a much simpler experience aimed at a much simpler audience.

Under Paris is streaming on Netflix now.

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