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Deep Blue Sea

Entry updated 14 January 2017. Tagged: Film.

Film (1999). Warner Bros Pictures presents in association with Village Roadshow Pictures-Groucho III Film Partnership an Alan Richie-Tony Ludwig/Akiva Goldsman production. Directed by Renny Harlin. Written by Duncan Kennedy, Donna Powers and Wayne Powers. Cast includes Saffron Burrows, LL Cool J, Thomas Jane, Samuel L Jackson, Jacqueline McKenzie and Stellan Skarsgård. 105 minutes. Colour.

A trio of sharks Genetically Engineered with human brain tissue attack the Scientists at an isolated aquatic research facility.

Inspired by the nightmares of marine Telepathy suffered by Australian screenwriter Duncan Kennedy on seeing a victim of a shark attack washed up outside his beachfront home, Deep Blue Sea takes the seaborne Monster Movie typified in the modern era by Jaws (1975) and adds a soupçon of Uplift to the quasi-Biological explanation for the behaviour of the sharks. "You've taken God's oldest killing machine and given it will and desire," says an aghast Carter Blake (Jane) on finding out that chief scientists Jim Whitlock (Skarsgård) and Susan McAlester (Burrows) have flouted the code of ethics in their bid to meet a 48-hour deadline to discover a cure for Alzheimer's. "What you've done is knocked us all the way to the bottom of the goddamn food chain."

Sure enough, the scientists and their staff are eaten one-by-one by sharks part-animatronic – director Renny Harlin insisted his sharks be 26 feet long on discovering that those used by Steven Spielberg in Jaws had been a mere 25 feet – and partly rendered via computer generated imagery (CGI), a technology which in its late-1990s infancy shows little or no appreciation for how bodies move through fluid, settling instead for a series of cartoon-like snaps and jerks: these in no way lessen the glee with which the members of the research team are dispatched. The stretcher-bound, one-armed body of presiding genius Jim Whitlock is used as a battering ram by one of the hyper-intelligent sharks; money-man Russell Franklin (Jackson) is gobbled up at the crescendo of an intense speech about cannibalism; Janice Higgins (McKenzie) is eaten in two short, sharp bites after dangling dramatically over a watery, shark-infested industrial elevator. Doctor Susan McAlester – naturally, her parents died of Alzheimer's – escapes a shark attack after stripping out of her rubber wetsuit (see Women in SF) and standing on it to insulate herself from the electrical current with which she electrocutes her pursuer. She refuses to leave the former World War Two submarine refuelling facility without the results of the research she has conducted: "Without that data everyone dying isn't just tragic – it's useless." It becomes clear to McAlester, Blake and God-fearing cook Sherman "Preacher" Dudley (LL Cool J) that the shark has been displaying superior tactics all along, first hemming them in and then manipulating them into flooding the Under the Sea facility so that it can swim free into the Pacific Ocean, and McAlester realizes she must act as bait to foil the escape of her Moby-Dick-like nemesis. She is duly eaten. There follows a dénouement in which the shark is harpooned with an explosive charge by Preacher, used as a fast-moving surf-board by Blake and then blown up by running an electrical charge from a nearby car battery. Deep Blue Sea is not a film guilty of taking itself too seriously.

The playful absurdity of the deaths of the scientists who meddle with what should not be meddled with is punctuated by occasional bouts of atmospheric mise en scène lifted from The Poseidon Adventure (1972) and Aliens (1986). Deep Blue Sea's "scientists search for a cure to Alzheimer's" subplot is similar to that used in Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) and its narrative shape a remarkably close precursor to that of Jurassic World (2015), the third of the sequels to the Steven Spielberg-directed Jurassic Park (1993). A straight-to-video sequel to Deep Blue Sea mooted by Warner Bros in 2008 never materialized. [MD]


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