Deep Blue Sea Movie Review

Movie Review by Anthony Leong © Copyright 1999

They're nature's oldest killing machines and now you've given them will and desire... ... you've knocked us to the bottom of the food chain!

Deep Blue Sea logo

Not since "Titanic" has the fear of drowning been this much fun! Director Renny Harlin, whose been known to lay a few eggs in recent years, including "The Long Kiss Goodnight" and "Cutthroat Island", is back in fine form with an action-packed time-waster. And though it may seem to be yet another one of those 'Aliens-set-underwater-type movies ("Deep Rising", "Deep Star Six", "Leviathan", and "Virus" are dubious examples of this subgenre), there's enough suspense and surprises to overlook the obvious flaws.

Working in Aquatica, an vast underwater research lab, Drs. Susan McAlester (Saffron Burrows of "Wing Commander") and Jim Whitlock (Stellan Skarsgaard of "Savior") have found a possible cure for Alzheimer's Disease. By using a protein found in the brains of sharks to reverse degenerative changes in human brain cells, they are on the verge of a medical breakthrough that will handsomely reward the pharmaceutical company funding their efforts. Unfortunately, the success has come at a terrible price. Through the unethical use of genetic engineering, they have managed to increase the production of the protein by enlarging the brain mass of three Mako sharks. Unfortunately, the genetic manipulation has manifested an unintentional side effect-- by making their brains bigger, the scientists have inadvertently also made them more intelligent and deadlier hunters.

Could someone please tell me what that is??!!

Saffron Burrows, Samuel L. Jackson, Thomas Jane, and Michael Rapaport

Not surprisingly, the presumptuous tampering with Mother Nature soon leads to a calamitous chain of events in the midst of stormy seas, and the hyper-intelligent sharks soon learn how to breach the controlled environment providing the arrogant humans a false sense of security. Those on the menu include company man Russell Franklin (Samuel L. Jackson of "Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace"), shark wrangler Carter Blake (Thomas Jane of "The Thin Red Line"), engineer Tom Scoggins (Michael Rapaport of "Copland"), cook Dudley (LL Cool J of "Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later"), and scientist Janet Winters (Jacqueline McKenzie).

I say we kill it.
Now that's the smartest thing you've said all day.

"Deep Blue Sea" doesn't start off very promisingly-- the pacing is intolerably slow and the hackneyed cast of characters don't appear to be that interesting. However, by the end of the mercifully-short first act, the movie kicks into horror/disaster mode with a breathtaking pace that refuses to let up. With terrific action direction and some genuine suspense, "Deep Blue Sea" is probably the first movie of the summer that delivers some genuine seat-of-your-pants thrills.

Dammit... brothers never make it out of these situations alive!

Jane, Burrows, and LL Cool J

Yes, the dialogue is silly at times, Skarsgaard's talent is wasted, and all the character archetypes are represented to full effect, but there's some good exploitational thrills at work here. The animatronic and computer-generated sharks are more menacing than your average rubber-made movie monster, LL Cool J's portrayal of the movie's 'token black guy' is hilarious, Jackson shines as the level-headed leader archetype, and there are some truly creative action set-pieces thrown in for good measure. And despite the movie's use of the usual genre trappings, it is almost as if Harlin is playing with the expectations of the audience. I found myself quite surprised by some unexpected twists that upended the overused clichés usually found in this type of movie. If you think you've figured out who becomes lunch within the movie's first twenty minutes... guess again.

It may not be art, but "Deep Blue Sea" has reminded me how much fun mindless drivel can be. Forget "The Haunting"... if you want edge-of-your-seat excitement that goes well with hot-buttered popcorn, "Deep Blue Sea" is the one guilty pleasure you should be diving into.

Images courtesy of Warner Bros. All rights reserved.

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