Darren Aronofsky gained a cult following after the moderate success of his first two films, “Requiem for a Dream” and “Pi.” Now, Aronofsky is back as a writer for the film “Below,” which he was actually thinking about writing even before “Pi.” Finally, this submarine thriller has been brought to the screen and without Aronofsky’s direction, it still smells of that familiar Aronofsky success.
We begin in the middle of the Atlantic in 1943 on an American submarine. The commanding lieutenant, played by Bruce Greenwood (“Double Jeopardy”), decides to take on three passengers from a torpedoed British hospital ship. The only two that matter are Olivia Williams (“Rushmore”) and Dexter Fletcher (Soap from “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels”).
When Olivia comes aboard most of the men start to be superstitious. There is an old superstition that says having a woman on a submarine is bad-luck, and ironically things start to go awry. With the occurrence of ‘supernatural’ activity, truths start to be uncovered about the mysterious disappearance of the original sub-commander.
That is basically all I can say without giving away any of the thrills. Olivia delivers again. She was a good supporting actress in “The Sixth Sense,” and now she is back supporting an entire cast of men. Dexter Fletcher, again, did a fantastic job. Although mostly a British comedy actor, he was able to put in a very dramatic performance that did not hinder the creepiness of this film.
Scott Foley from TV’s “Felicity” is in this film along with other familiar faces like Holt McCallany (“Three Kings”) and incredible, Jason Flemyng (“Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels”). Although I never cared for “Felicity,” Foley seems to possess some talent, which contributes to this cast. McCallany and Flemyng, having contradicting characters, add to the heat between the sailors, which makes their interactions highly entertaining.
Behind the strong cast is strong writing. They have managed to put together an intense and interesting film despite the limited quarters of a submarine. Granted, some of the effects outside the sub were a little underdeveloped, like the effects you would find in “The Abyss,” but besides that, the director, David Towhy, did a great job.
You won’t jump as much at this as you will at “The Ring,” but if you have any fear of being under water or trapped in small confined spaces, you can feel everything closing in around you in this movie. It makes it more intense, more uncomfortable and that just heightens the thrill factor.
However, this film seems to struggle to be something better than it is and just falls slightly short. It is well worth going to see, but it does not seem to complete what it set out to do. B.