William Eubank’s latest thriller, Underwater features some of the most impressive visual effects of the year. The entire premise of the film hinges on the believability of being 36,000 feet below sea level. However, the film features very few practical water effects. It instead relies on masterful technical artistry and solid performances by the actors, to sell the awe and danger of the cavernous deep sea.
Complimenting the Story
Modern films are often jammed with computer-generated imagery (CGI) and appear generic or poorly made. Many films utilize CGI in ways that do not serve the main story. In the case of Underwater, computer-generated effects are essential for conveying William Eubank’s vision. The film utilizes CGI in a way that enhances the overall tone of the film and you constantly feel the hazardous conditions of the deep sea throughout.
Selling the Underwater
So how did the artists pull off the illusion of filming 36,000 feet below the sea? A few factors come into play. First, the actors were filmed in front of a dimly lit black set. Those conditions offered a practical darkening of the frame. Secondly, small particles were blown in the air to simulate ocean debris and act as a reference for CGI work. Claustrophobia and confinement with the characters are apparent through the use of clever cinematography. A final technical element that sells the illusion is sound mixing. The sound of isolated breathing or muffled rushing water enhances the feeling of isolation and pressure. The result is a look and feeling you get with deep-sea documentaries.
With the Actors
Divers often say that being underwater is physically taxing. In Underwater, the physical and mental pressures are even higher in an alien-like underwater environment. The actors of Underwater sell that physicality and toll with subtle but believable performances. Additionally, the suits they wore were entirely practical and heavy, which helped with the authenticity of their performances. When the actors are in close-up, their exhaustion and fear is clearly visible. Those shots allow the audience to literally get into the head-space of whoever is on screen. You feel connected with the characters and are on the journey with them. Ultimately, David Eubanks along with the cast and crew has crafted a film that captures the dangers and mystery of the deep sea. It will definitely leave you feeling 36,000 feet below.