Under Paris Review

Under Paris
Years after surviving a shark attack that killed her husband and marine crew, scientist Sophia (Bérénice Bejo) faces a terrifying truth: the rapidly evolving sea beast known as Lilith has made her way to Paris, ready to feed.

by Ben Travis |
Published on
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Under Paris

Let’s make one thing clear: the premise of Under Paris is seriously silly. It’s practically a prerequisite of shark movies these days — in a post-Jaws world, there’s no chance of making the greatest shark film of all time, so instead, filmmakers largely double down on daftness or campy fun. That’s been the approach of The Meg and its sequel, the ultra-pulpy Deep Blue Sea, the chompy thrills of The Shallows, and 47 Meters Down. Now, quite preposterously, get ready for sharks in Paris; rather than ‘Les dents de la mer’, Xavier Gens’ disposably entertaining Netflix film plumps for ‘Les dents de la Seine’.

Under Paris

For the most part, Gens — previously behind Hollywood’s Hitman adaptation, and New French Extremity favourite Frontier(s) — plays the shark-movie hits. Our central figure is scientist Sophia (Bérénice Bejo), who has personal beef with ‘Lilith’, the rapidly evolving mako shark responsible for wiping out her team (this time, it’s personal); the Parisian mayor (Anne Marivin) is more concerned with popularity and profit than keeping her citizens safe; there’s a plan to blow up the predators before they can attack again. But there’s freshness in the unconventional French setting — the touristy cinematography accentuating the Parisian locations (hello, Eiffel Tower!) and differentiating the film from the rest of the shark-cinema canon.

A mid-movie massacre in the Paris catacombs brings a welcome level of carnage.

Tonally, Under Paris veers between pulp and preachiness, laying the eco-satire on incredibly thick. The arrival of Lilith in Paris (and the nature of her surprise new tricks) is down to ocean pollution and climate change — she’s a symptom rather than the disease. And, as with global warming, Lilith is a clear and present danger that nobody can agree on exactly how to handle. It’s not really a spoiler to say that the scientists don’t get listened to. In the film’s baggy second act, the heavy-handedness threatens to sink it all — but when the fun begins, it’s a blast. An hour in, a mid-movie massacre in the Paris catacombs brings a welcome level of carnage — Gen-Z eco-warriors, sceptical law-enforcement officers and fearful scientists are all served on the menu for Lilith as agendas clash and blood flows.

In that sequence — and the grand finale, set during a Seine-centric triathlon that sends swathes of swimmers into the shark-infested waters — Gens conjures a palpable sense of splash-panic. The closing act, too, pulls no punches, dialling up the social commentary for a final reel that makes bold, bleak strides, and sets up a potentially wild sequel that — frankly — has a chance at being a much more interesting film than this one. Sure, it’s basically all nonsense, with thin characters and daffy logic — but Under Paris has just enough teeth where it counts.

A solid shark thriller whose admirable but clunky eco-warnings almost get in the way of a good time. Best when it allows itself to really go in-Seine.
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