A shark in the Seine?
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A shark in the Seine?

Under Paris is a clichéd thriller featuring an unrealistic premise

Bérénice Bejo in Under Paris. (Photo © NETFLIX)
Bérénice Bejo in Under Paris. (Photo © NETFLIX)

Who doesn't love shark movies? Watching a predatory creature attack can provide a rush of adrenaline as well as entertainment. Yet, it's been a while since we've seen a captivating shark film. Ever since the release of Jaws (1975) and more modern offerings like Deep Blue Sea (1999) and The Shallows (2016), subsequent shark films have grown increasingly absurd.

The Meg franchise, Sharknado (2013), Three-Headed Shark Attack (2015) and Shark Bait (2022) are examples of how the genre can dive into ridiculousness. Adding to this list is Netflix's latest entry from France, Under Paris, which features a shark on the rampage in the heart of the city, with a PTSD-afflicted protagonist.

Directed by Xavier Gens, Under Paris is set today as the city is hosting the World Triathlon Championships on the Seine for the first time. Bérénice Bejo stars as Sophia, a marine scientist grieving the loss of her research team in a tragic event that forced her to retreat from work. Years later, she is called back into action when an activist warns her of the emergence of a shark, codenamed Lilith, that has infiltrated the waterways of Paris. Sophia teams up with local police to prevent an impending bloodbath in the city.

The premise of the film strains credulity from the start -- a shark thriving in fresh water? Through overly dramatic exposition, we are led to believe this is possible, and the team quickly realises they are dealing with a super shark and one that defies conventional behaviour.

Under Paris ticks all the right boxes for a cheesy thriller, especially since the characters are illogical. Sophia, the smartest character, is repeatedly ignored despite her knowledge and experience. This is a throwback to Mayor Vaughn from Jaws, who ignores public safety warnings to avoid hurting tourism, leading to devastating consequences. In Under Paris, it seems every character exhibits a similar disregard for common sense. The police force make decisions that are likely to get them killed.

Sophia's character also lacks originality. She follows the classic trope of a scientist who goes into hiding after a tragic event, only to be rediscovered and given a chance at redemption. This cliché has been overdone, making it difficult to root for the protagonist.

Under Paris attempts to tackle several themes, including grief, redemption and the consequences of environmental negligence. However, these themes are often overshadowed by the film's focus on action and thrills. Sophia's journey from a grieving, reclusive scientist to a proactive hero is meant to be the emotional core of the story, but it feels rushed and underdeveloped. Her interactions with other characters lack depth, making it hard to connect with her on a meaningful level. The supporting characters here are also overly dramatic and continuously make unintelligent choices for no reason. At one point, a particularly troublesome character made me wish for some chompy action to take them out. And that is not good, when you are rooting for the villain.

The film's disregard for scientific accuracy is evident in a twist three-quarters into the story that prevents you from taking the movie seriously, and it nearly ruined it for me. The CGI is unconvincing as well, with unimpressive graphics and inconsistent use of blood. While the filmmakers attempt to capture energy, chaos and action, reliance on cheap-looking CGI detracts from the film's potential to be chilling or terrifying.

If you enjoy creature features and don't mind uninspired writing and characters, you might find Under Paris entertaining. This is one of those movies where you must suspend your disbelief to derive any enjoyment from it. For those looking for a more intelligent and believable shark thriller, you might want to steer clear.

  • Under Paris
  • Starring Bérénice Bejo, Nassim Lyes, Léa Léviant
  • Directed by Xavier Gens
  • Now streaming on Netflix
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