UNDER PARIS (SOUS LA SEINE)(France 2024) ***

Directed by Xavier Gens

 

Berenice Bejo has the title role of the French scientist, Sophia torn between protecting the killer shark and humans.  Bejo is best known for her comedic roles in her husband, Michel Hazanavicius’ films, most notably the Academy Award Winning Best Picture THE ARTIST in 2011.  She also starred in both her husband’s OSS 117 spy spoofs, very funny films that never reached North America.  Bejo (born in Buenos Sires, Argentina) is always a joy to watch and carries all her roles with flair and commitment.

Director Gens is best known for his horror Nazi film FRONTEIRE(S) which is a minor classic with horror fans.  He tackles this JAWS-like horror movie by including current issues like climate change, plastic pollution and Darwin evolution.

The shark named Lilith has adapted to change by being able to live in both sea and fresh waters, growing to an enormous size in a short period of time and being able to reproduce without having a male.

The film, as in most films these days has a strong female slant with most of the major characters, including the shark being female.  The animal activists are also led by females.

As in many horror films, the tendency to fall into cliched territory is a common trap.  In this story, the shark attracts are retaking place in Paris during the international triathlon.  Just like the mayor in Steven Spielberg’s 1972 JAWS, who wants to keep Martha’s Vineyard open for the busy money-making summer season.  In UNDER PARIS, the mayor, (again) a female does not want to shut down Paris though the shark is hiding beneath the Seine during the international event.

UNDER PARIS contains a few edgy moments but it occasionally treads through cliched territory, so that much of what transpires on screen feels seen before.  But given its limited premise, director Gens who has proved himself apt at grabbing an audience’s attention has created a few excellent attention-grabbing sequences.  These include the opening scene in which Sophie’s husband is mauled by the shark but is only seen with his floating arm in the ocean as witnessed by Sophie, competing with a close-up shot of his wedding ring on his finger and also in the opening segment where the audience sees the surface of the water littered by plastic and more plastic.  

What is noticeable in the film is its lack humour.  I can only recall one joke, where a police colleague says when the lead of the river police as he goes away with Sophie: “Sarge, make your move.”  But what is lacking in humour is more than compensated by director Gens providing unexpected shocks and surprises, despite a few cliched parts.

UNDER PARIS has great production sets, and is stunning to look at.  The audience also sees the Seine in a new light in all its grandeur with all the bridges across it.  There are also astonishing scenes shot beneath the city of Paris as the river police hunt down the killer shark.  Will the triathlon athletes survive as they dive into the Seine in the film’s final scene?  The answer is a big surprise proving UNDER PARIS (Sous La Seine) the best shark horror movie after Spielberg’s JAWS.

UNDER PARIS opens for streaming on Netflix this week.

Trailer: 

 

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