Deep Blue Sea (1999)
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil - Preacher
Someone once said to me that "Deep Blue Sea" was the new "Jaws", at which point I told them not to be so stupid and sent them packing. Yes, the two movie may have the common element that they both use sharks to instigate fear in the audience, but where as "Jaws" is a classic creature feature which generally has the scare factor about it, "Deep Blue Sea" is a modern day action/ disaster movie which although not overly frightening still manages to entertain. But if you think I am going to dismiss "Deep Blue Sea" as just another action movie in an already over crowded genre, well I'm not.
Somewhere in the middle of the ocean, scientists on an underwater laboratory called Aquatica have been developing a potential cure for Alzheimer's disease. By genetically modifying the brains of a group of captive sharks, they have been able to harvest a powerful protein with miraculous healing powers. But unbeknown to them, their genetic tampering has had an adverse side effect, the sharks are getting smarter. When the head of the corporation that finances the research pays them a visit all hell breaks lose. Whilst demonstrating the technique for harvesting the protein, the supposedly sedated shark turns violent causing a severe injury to one of the scientist and massive damage to the facility which along with a sudden tropical storm makes survival unlikely for those stuck in the underwater corridors.
Although the plot to "Deep Blue Sea" dwells in the realms of far fetched, fantasy, it is one which is tightly constructed and packed with solid reasoning, making it somewhat believable as well as engrossing. Right from the opening sequence, which features an escaped shark attacking a yacht with some partying teenagers on board, the movie not only sets the pace for what lies ahead, but provides solid plot elements which tie in beautifully together.
Although the initial premise for "Deep Blue Sea" seems to be the scientific research into a cure for Alzheimer's disease, it soon becomes apparent that this is purely the set up for what I can only class as a traditional disaster movie with a touch of creature feature. It has all the desired requisites which make up the disaster movie genre, from the stereotypical set of characters, to the spectacular special effects and of course the somewhat predictable final battle outcome. But I am not complaining, as director Renny Harlin has done an exceptional job of keeping the movie feeling fresh and not just another mediocre copy.
Also, in a very nice touch, "Deep Blue Sea" pays homage to the classic "Jaws" and its sequels by cleverly including references to them through out the movie. Such references include the way in which they try to kill the sharks, being exactly the same way that they did in each of the "Jaws" movies. Although these references may be lost on anyone who isn't overly familiar with "Jaws", I as a movie fan, or should that be freak, really enjoyed these in movie links.
Unlike some modern creature features which suffer from having dire, unrealistic looking animals and lousy special effects, "Deep Blue Sea" actually excels in this department. With a mixture of real life shark footage, animatronics and CGI there was only one scene in the entire movie which made me cringe due to its unrealistic fake ness. On top of this, with it mainly being an action movie, it is filled with stunts, bangs and huge explosions, all of which look fantastic and sound brilliant.
If I have one real criticism of "Deep Blue Sea" it is that the character who is blatantly meant to be the hero is clearly overshadowed by two other characters, mainly down to the performance of the actors playing them. But this point does not detract from what is basically a set of good characters and cast who carry the movie pretty well. In the lead role of the movies hero, Carter Blake, is Thomas Jane, a relatively unknown actor at the time who has been in a few major movies. Now although he does a reasonable job of making the character an action hero, especially the scenes where he is swimming with the sharks, he does not dominate the screen and is understandably overshadowed by two better known Hollywood actors.
First up out of these two better known actors, we have Hollywood's own king of cool, Samuel L. Jackson as Russell Franklin, the head of the corporation who are financing the research. It may not be his most memorable performance but it is still very good and one which is head and shoulders above the rest of the cast. Also stealing the show is rapper turned actor LL Cool J as the research centres chef and slightly holy character, aptly known as Preacher. As with all disaster movies, you need a touch of humour to break up the tension and LL Cool J does this brilliantly, with a succession of witty but apt comments. One of my favourites comes towards the end, just prior to the survivors going into a final battle with the sharks, where Preacher leads them in a rousing prayer which goes "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil. For thou art with me. Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life. Because I carry a big stick and I'm the meanest mother f%$!er in the valley! Two sharks down, Lord! One demon fish to go! Can I get an Amen?"
Also making up the cast we have Saffron Burrows, Stellan Skarsgård and my personal favourite, Michael Rapaport who plays the slightly nervy engineer who is not to keen on the fishy friends. All the actors do a good job, nothing overly special but nothing terrible.
As previously mentioned, "Deep Blue Sea" is directed by action specialist Renny Harlin who has done a remarkable job of making such a good movie. Working within a genre which is packed with dull, repetitive action thrillers and setting itself up for obvious but misguided comparisons to the classic "Jaws", Harlin has created a true action movie with punchy sequences and cliché dialogue, plus a descent amount of drama. It is difficult to pick out just one element to praise as they are all really very well done, including the musical score, which although sounds rather familiar in places, fits perfectly in this movie and really helps to build up the atmosphere.
What this all boils down to is that whilst "Deep Blue Sea" may never be classed as a classic in the same sense as "Jaws" ,it is a very good attempt at a modern disaster movie come creature feature. Although the plot and dialogue can only be described as predictable, the combination of good special effects, good performances and great direction make up for this, saving it from being just another mediocre also ran.
Tags: Shark Movies
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