Not to be confused with high-tone The Deep Blue Sea, from 2011, this action thriller whose USP is “smart sharks” got a mixed reception when it came out, everyone suddenly having forgotten how many people have tried to follow in the wake of Jaws – and totally failed.
Renny Harlin’s film succeeds, mostly, thanks to his understanding of action, his writer’s reliance on the old “someone’s been messing with nature” plot, of Godzilla vintage, and a better cast than these things often have (Michael Caine in Jaws: The Revenge being a rare exception).
So we have Saffron Burrows as a scientist who’s been genetically modifying sharks in an attempt to find the cure for Alzheimer’s. These experiments have made the ravenous beasts even more fiendishly clever than they already were. It’s also given them an appetite for human sashimi, which they set out to satisfy by breaking out of their high-security pens and laying seige to the scientists’ living quarters next door. All this is going on, wouldn’t you just know it, on a hi-tech facility miles and miles out at sea.
Granted, Deep Blue Sea isn’t as elemental as Jaws, but then it’s not as sentimental either. Nor is it likely to put you off swimming in the open sea for ever. Instead you get Saffron taking her clothes off because the script strictly demands it, plus Thomas Jane doing he-man heroics, Samuel L Jackson playing a charismatic megacorp boss and LL Cool J as an eccentric cook. Two black men in a who’s-going-to-get-it-next film? Just one of the deliberately tantalising elements of a film that manages to blindside the audience to yelping effect on at least a couple of occasions.
Deep Blue Sea is a film really best seen on a big screen in a room full of warm mortals but even at home there’s plenty in it for lovers of squirm, ouch and splat.
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© Steve Morrissey 2013