Under Paris 2024 Movie
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Under Paris 2024 Movie Review

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Under Paris 2024 Movie Review

The familiar touchstones of summer shark horror are there in spades in French filmmaker Xavier Gens’ (Frontier(s), Cold Skin) Netflix feature Under ParisJaws and eco-horror collide as a Mako shark goes rogue right at the peak of summer’s busy season. As its title suggests, the novelty here comes in the form of its setting: the Seine River and Paris’ labyrinthine underground system. The unique location and stunning underwater photography go far in Gens’ latest, but not far enough: an overreliance on a familiar story and clashing tones work against the summer shark carnage.

An intense opening introduces scientist Sophia (Bérénice Béjo) as she and her team, including her lover, investigate a trash island out at sea. They find the carcass of a baby sperm whale trapped and starved by the debris, which then attracts sharks. That includes Lilith, a tagged female Mako that Sophia’s team has been tracking. Before Sophia has time to register Lilith’s rapid-growing size, a gentle but dangerous encounter turns deadly, leaving Sophia traumatized and in mourning.

As the scientist attempts to leave it all behind, a young activist, Mika (Léa Léviant), seeks her help with a mysterious new shark that has made its way into the Seine River, just as the World Triathlon Championships are set to get underway. Sophia finds herself in an unlikely alliance with river policeman Adil (Nassim Lyes) in their bid to remove the shark before a bloodbath ensues. 

Under Paris grafts ecological messaging onto the Jaws blueprint, right down to government officials and affluent financiers ignoring expertise and concerns over the heavily populated aquatic sporting event set to commence. The intense opening doesn’t just introduce Sophia and Lilith; it presents a startling picture of humankind’s toll on the ocean and its wildlife, a theme that carries throughout. Gens, who co-wrote the script with Yannick Dahan and Maud Heywang, explores it further through the well-intentioned but reckless Mika, part of an activism group that staunchly advocates for the safety of sharks. It’s Mika who brings a reluctant Sophia back into the fold, but it’s also Mika who complicates any attempts to cleanse the Seine of an unprecedented shark invader. 

As potent as some of the imagery can be in the eco-messaging, it ultimately feels like mere connective tissue to carry viewers from one inventive, action-heavy set piece to another. It’s here where Under Paris shines, as Gens makes full use of the setting, whether staging surface river moments against the backdrop of the Eiffel Tower or delivering an exhilarating feeding frenzy in the subterranean tunnels. Even the Catacombs serve as a brief stage for a climactic confrontation. Nicolas Massart‘s cinematography pops in these action sequences, and the underwater photography presents the shark terror with stunning clarity.

But these thrilling sequences frequently upstage the uninteresting drama of its central characters and their archetypical roles. It creates a strange dichotomy; Under Paris winds up feeling like a disparate blend of overly serious eco-horror and a zanier action horror movie with gory B-movie impulses. Gens’ latest is always at its most interesting when catering to the latter, not just in terms of visual language but in the unexpected twists to the shark and its behavior, too.

But it’s at its most forgettable when focusing on the human drama, tediously retreading Jaws and various other familiar shark horror tales. There’s potential lurking in these waters and a few bloody scenes that stand out, but overall, its tonal swings between somber seriousness and summer horror fun distract too much from what works. 

Under Paris 2024 Movie Review

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