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Below (2002)

 

Starring: Bruce Greenwood, Olivia Williams, Matt Davis
Director:
David Twohy

Rating: R

Studio: Dimension Films

Review Posted: 4.06.03

Spoilers: None

 

Reviewed by Dennis Landmann

 

Synopsis

 

In the dark silence of the sea during World War II, the submarine U.S.S. Tiger Shark prowls on what should be a routine rescue mission. But for the shell-shocked crew, trapped together in the sub's narrow corridors and constricted spaces, this is about to become a journey into the sensory delusions, mental deceptions and runaway fear that lurk just below the surface of the ocean and deep inside the human psyche.

 

Critique

 

From director David Twohy (Pitch Black) comes an exciting submarine suspense thriller featuring a stellar cast of characters and performances. However, what takes center stage in Below is the writing of Lucas Sussman & Darren Aronofsky and David Twohy. Not only do the three writers know their story very well but also how to create suspense. Coming off the success of U-571, Below offers an exciting new twist to the genre, specifically by combining suspense with the horror genre.

 

In addition to the strong script are the performances of some well-known character actors/faces, namely Bruce Greenwood, Holt McCallany, Olivia Williams, Jason Flemyng, Matt Davis, and Dexter Fletcher. Each of the characters has specific traits and intentions that serve the story well. By all means, Below is more than just another submarine film in that the characters and their situation divert the audience’s attention to themselves. Each new twist and horror-related “jump scare” is due to the actions of the characters.

 

Below is perhaps one of the most overlooked films of 2002. Its cast consists of very familiar faces, the writing and direction are really good, and the horror genre within is perfect for a setting such as inside a submarine. This film is not only scary, but it is very exciting and fun to watch. Even though the last ten minutes seem a little confusing and awkward, Below is one of those smaller films you really can’t afford to miss.

 

8 out of 10

 

>Read Sara M. Fetters' Film Review!

 

The Video

 

"Pristine" is the one word to describe the video transfer of the film. Daylight scenes look fresh and the color detail is simply amazing. I didn’t notice any scratches or shadows on this fine video transfer. The underwater sequences are handled very well and most of the dark scenes profited from the clear-cut and detailed 1.85:1 widescreen transfer, also enhanced for 16x9 televisions.

 

9 out of 10

 

The Audio

 

Below is very much audio-driven and the Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound that is available is pretty good. However, the film lacks the action that made U-571 so loud and exciting during times of battle. Nevertheless, this transfer handles the film’s noise very well as both front and rear speakers come to life.

 

8 out of 10

 

The Extras

 

Commentary by David Twohy and Cast – This track is pretty enjoyable from the “vibe” point of view. There are quite a lot of laughs and good conversations. Twohy tends to comment on technical and writing aspects of the film while the actors comment on themselves and what is shown on screen.  

 

Deleted Scenes w/ optional Director’s Commentary – Twohy explains why some of these scenes, which actually aren’t too bad, ultimately made it to the cutting room floor.

 

“The Process” Featurette – Interviews with the cast and crew are spliced with footage from the film and behind-the-scenes. It’s not very revealing, but serves its purpose well to explain the process of making Below.

 

Theatrical Trailer – This trailer is actually very well made, but I’m afraid not enough people got the chance to see it.

 

8 out of 10

 

Overall

 

Below is an exciting, fun, and smart submarine suspense/horror film. This is the easiest and most effective way to describe the film. Also, with a pristine video transfer and a pretty good audio track, in addition to some very deserving special features, Below is a DVD actually worth "buying." For anyone with reservations, I would "recommend" a rental.

 

Overall DVD Rating: 8 out of 10

 

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