Director: Renny Harlin
Cast: Thomas Jane, Saffron Burrows, LL Cool J, Michael Rapaport, Jacqueline McKenzie, Stellan Skarsgard and Samuel L. Jackson
Plot: While trying to cure Alzheimer’s, a group of scientists genetically engineer a group of Mako sharks, accidentally making them super intelligent.
There’s an argument to be made that Deep Blue Sea is no better than the stock dodgy shark movie except that a blockbuster budget and snappy director Renny Harlin are able to give it a sleek coat of paint. Is Deep Blue Sea the best shark movie since Spielberg’s epic Jaws or is it simply another naff shark film, disguised as a cool summer movie?
It must be said that Deep Blue Sea definitely gets dafter with every new watch. On the first watch, there is enough innovative ideas to make it seem worlds away from the silly Jaws sequels and the terrible B Movie likes of ‘Sharktopus’. Harlin attaches a science-heavy backdrop to the plot of his movie, setting the action in a state-of-the-art underwater lab, where a group of colourful scientists are experimenting on sharks to cure Alzheimer’s. Saffron Burrows plays the sharp, feisty scientist sprouting expositional mumbo jumbo that gives Deep Blue Sea the air of being better than it is. This gives way to the handy plot point where these sharks are smarter than your average fish, promising a more intense shark movie experience. These sharks learn from their surroundings, growing more dangerous as the film throttles onwards. However, as you return to this film, the plot points stop adding up quite as smoothly as they did before. For one, just because these sharks are smarter, doesn’t mean they have the scientific knowledge to carry out their plot of reaching the open water. Sure, the killer instinct and memory is fair enough in the limitations of the story, but these sharks have intricate knowledge of things they have never had access to. Also, that sleek CGI that makes these sharks so much more dangerous than the competition looks ropier with every watch. The initial terrifying experience of seeing these speedy sharks burst onto a screen gives way to watching a naff animated blur come for the audience. It kills a lot of respect for the creature, which is arguably the most crucial ingredient in a shark film. And when these small beats start giving way, the rest of the film begins to look just as bad. LL Cool J was once a welcome piece of comic relief to add levity to the gruesome proceedings. Over time, he just becomes an irritating distraction. Eventually, the intelligence of the movie has completely gone and all you are left with is just another B Movie shark film.
That isn’t to say that Deep Blue Sea is a failed promise. If you accept it is a polished dumb shark film, you must admit it does this very well. The cast may have been given cardboard cut-out characters and cardboard dialogue (tough, silent hero, chatty best friend, screaming girl), but they make the most of it. Thomas Jane enjoys playing a John McClane of the ocean, channelling a smouldering stoicism that makes up for any lack of character. Samuel L. Jackson is excellent as the celebrity heavyweight, lending gravitas to the film. He perfectly summarises the attitude both actors and audience members need to adopt when approaching this movie. Yes, it’s dumb but have fun with it. Jackson doesn’t treat the film like it is beneath him and simply lives in the moment. The dialogue may be dull, but Harlin knows how to craft a set-piece. There are several winning moments in Deep Blue Sea that most Shark B Movies simply don’t have: the kind of scene that makes a ropey screenplay worth it. Take your pick with this film. An early jump scare where a shark feigns unconsciousness long enough to snap a character’s arm off marks the moment the film really kicks off. Then there is an iconic scene where a rousing monologue is shortly followed by the film’s best moment – few would argue with this statement. For those unaware of the great scene, it will not be spoiled here. And the ending is strong in itself. One of the greatest strengths of the script is how unpredictable the death scenes are. It is almost impossible to predict when they are coming along and a few big faces get chomped up far earlier than you thought they would. It keeps you on the edge of your toes. Sure, it gets worse with every watch, but why are you still tempted to watch it one more time?
Final Verdict: A big dumb B Movie that’s sneaked an A-List cast into the film – as far as the silly shark genre goes, this is one of the big hitters.