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  • Writer's pictureS.J.

'Under Paris' review: Massive shark makes sure that Bérénice Bejo goes in-Seine

Bérénice Bejo looking up at an aquarium with a shark swimming behind her

It's been about 50 years and people in movies are still trying to outsmart the sharks. You'd think they would've learned their lesson by now, but then again, humans as a collective can make very dumb decisions. Speaking of, let's dive into the red and limb-infested waters of Under Paris (Sous la Seine in French), which is here to pit humans against fish yet again. Sophia (Bérénice Bejo) is a Parisian marine scientist with a traumatic past as she lost her entire research group, including her husband, to a shark attack a few years back, which we see in the film's opening. However, she learns from a young environmental activist Mika (Léa Léviant) that the monster shark in question has now found its way to Seine, right in the centre of Paris. The city is preparing to host a massive triathlon race, which of course includes a swimming portion. Sophia and Mika team up with police sergeant Adil (Nassim Lyes) to deal with the murderous shark.

The aforementioned 10-minute opening section is a pretty efficient and successful introduction to one of the few different movies that Under Paris wants to be, although it becomes fairly clear that it would've also been the best one. Afterwards, you're on this weird, uneven journey in Paris, and your gut feeling about the fact that something might've gone wrong makes sense later when you find out that this river might've been too small for all the creatives involved. Director Xavier Gens is also credited for the screenplay alongside Yannick Dahan and Maud Heywang, the trio working from a blueprint by Yaël Langmann and Olivier Torres, who themselves are credited for adapting an ''original idea'' by Edouard Duprey and Sébastien Auscher. The result of all of this is a mishmash of different tones and ideas as far as the story and dialogue goes, along with plenty of bland characters and toothless political ideologies.

And this is where you're also reminded that this is meant to be a crowd-pleasing action thriller and perhaps not the deep dive into environmentalism, eco-terrorism or vanity of politicians even though the movie sometimes teases those aspects. But it's the uninspired vision that affects it even on that level since there's rarely any sort of tension or horror after the opening sequence, little comprehensible monster action due to extremely distracting cinematography (by Nicolas Massart) and overly chaotic editing (by Riwanon Le Beller), as well as performances that mostly range from forgettable to amateurish, such as that of Anne Marivin who portrays the pompous mayor of Paris, who is from a completely different movie or from your average TV procedural if we want to be less generous.

At times, Lyes shows some proper, handsome leading man chops, the cast and stunt professionals seem to be having a bit of fun with the stunts (Jude Poyer is credited as the action designer) and the film moves very well from scene to scene as it continues to escalate the situation and increase the scale—even threatening you with sequel bait towards the end—but it's hard to say if it's for anything of value because Gens and others don't commit to anything memorable. At the end of the day, Under Paris is neither a fun thriller nor an impressive action movie, which is a shame. Facing this shark will turn you into a goldfish since you won't remember its mediocrity.

Smileys: Pacing

Frowneys: Cinematography, Anne Marivin

Until someone pisses off a bigger shark.


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