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NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

BELOW (article first published : 2003-03-9)

If ever there was a classic case of a trailer proving far better than a film itself it applies to Below, a thriller with supernatural overtones set in a World War 2 submarine and spinning a tale involving a web of corruption, deceipt and fear.

The trailer showed a lot of promise, a lot of tension, but the movie does not deliver. It's a claustrophobic drawn-out low-budget affair which actually had me almost nodding off four times - a record for this reviewer.

The story set in the Atlantic Ocean in 1943 revolves around the crew of an American submarine rescuing three survivors from a British hospital war ship which has been sunk in a German U-Boat attack.

Among the survivors is a nurse, Claire (pale Olivia Williams of Lucky Break and The Postman fame), whose presence puts smiles on the faces of the all-male crew. But not for long.

With threat of attack ever-present, plus morale at an all-time low following the accidental death of their captain, and his replacement, X, proving a lesser man, the crew members are not the happiest of young men.

And it doesn't help ease the tension when strange things start happening.

Everyone becomes increasingly paranoid, suspicious and fearful when a mysterious, ghostly, male voice starts mingling with the eerie underwater sounds that constantly echo from the deep.

Nerves become increasingly strained, particularly when enemy craft constantly pass over the submarine, heightening the danger, while members of the crew try to hide secrets that may affect the fate of all aboard the vessel.

Although routinely directed by David Twohy, the film starts off fairly interestingly but it becomes plodding and increasingly silly - and dull - as it traipses towards a ridiculous finale involving a fight with a torch that features one of the weakest sequences of acting you are likely to see all year.

Below is below average and gets a rating of 4/10. Billy Suter




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