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Review: Under Paris (2024)

Under Paris (2024)

Directed by: Xavier Gens

Premise: A giant shark takes up residence in the Seine river in Paris, France. A marine biologist (Bérénice Bejo) and the river police commander (Nassim Lyes) try to warn the public ahead of the World Triathlon Championships.

What Works: Shark films have a mixed history and they often have dodgy special effects which has sometimes been played for camp as in the Sharknado series. The visual effects of Under Paris are generally good and the shark looks convincing. Virtually every movie about a killer shark is inevitably compared to Jaws and many pictures have imitated and ripped off Steven Spielberg’s classic. The filmmakers of Under Paris add some new ingredients to a familiar formula. When the shark is discovered in the Seine, a group of idealistic environmentalists try to protect the animal and draw it out of the river and back to the ocean. The ecology theme adds a new angle to the familiar killer shark story.

What Doesn’t: After the environmentalist’s plan goes sideways, Under Paris reverts back to a standard Jaws formula and the parallels are baldfaced such as centering the story on a marine biologist and a law enforcement official and making a secondary villain out of the mayor who denies the shark menace while orchestrating a major tourism event. The reliance on formula makes the pacing feel plodding and the storyline predictable. The filmmakers flirt with environmentalism but this is quickly abandoned in a way that reveals that interest to be superficial. Under Paris rightly takes aim at environmentalists who have a mistaken Disneyesque notion of nature. Serious ecology accepts that wild animals are indeed wild and potentially dangerous; abandoning any ecological message at the first sign of danger reveals that the filmmakers were never really serious about it. The killer shark genre isn’t renowned for great writing but Under Paris is very stupid. Viewers who know anything about sharks will recognize some of the ridiculous details; this shark has adapted and reproduces asexually and the characters discover a shark nest, which these animals don’t do. Story details don’t make internal sense. The mayor tries to keep the shark threat under wraps but about halfway through the picture dozens of people have seen it, many of them recording the sighting with their cell phone cameras. This is sloppy storytelling. The special effects make heavy use of digital imagery and while the sharks generally look organic, some of the underwater sequences lack a sense of location. These sharks are in constricted spaces under the Parisan streets but the underwater scenes have no background. The sharks are shown swimming in generic aquatic spaces that feel disconnected from the rest of the scene.

Disc extras: Available on Netflix.

Bottom Line: Under Paris is a dumb shark movie. It fulfills the animal attack narrative but the way it flits with ecological themes and then runs away from those ideas is frustrating.

Episode: #1000 (June 16, 2024)