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Below is a 2002 American submarine horror film directed by David Twohy, written by Darren Aronofsky, Lucas Sussman, and Twohy, and stars Bruce Greenwood, Olivia Williams, Matthew Davis, Holt McCallany, Scott Foley, Zach Galifianakis, Jason Flemyng, and Dexter Fletcher. The film tells the story of a United States Navy submarine that experiences a series of supernatural events while on patrol in the Atlantic Ocean in 1943.
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||David Twohy|
|Edited by||Martin Hunter|
|Distributed by||Miramax Films|
Below was filmed on location in Lake Michigan for exteriors (using the World War II-era U.S. Navy submarine USS Silversides) and at Pinewood Studios. The film was released theatrically on October 11, 2002 to mixed reviews from critics.
In August 1943, the U.S. Navy submarine USS Tiger Shark patrols the Atlantic Ocean during World War II. Receiving orders to pick up survivors spotted adrift by a British PBY Catalina patrol plane, the submarine rescues three survivors – British nurse Claire Paige (Olivia Williams), and two men, one of them wounded – from British hospital ship Fort James, sunk two days earlier; one survivor blames a German U-boat he spotted on the surface just before Fort James suffered a torpedo hit. The Tiger Shark crew spots a German destroyer approaching. The submarine has several encounters with the destroyer and suffers damage from depth charges. Commanding officer Lieutenant Brice (Bruce Greenwood) discovers the wounded survivor is actually a German prisoner-of-war, Bernhard Schillings (Jonathan Hartman). Believing Schillings has been making noise to betray Tiger Shark's position to the German warship, Brice confronts him, shooting Schillings dead when the German panics and grabs a scalpel to defend himself.
Brice reveals to Paige that Tiger Shark recently sunk a German submarine tender, and previous commanding officer, Lieutenant Commander Winters (Nick Hobbs), died after surfacing to confirm the sinking. According to Brice, Winters attempted to salvage a souvenir from the flotsam with a boathook when Tiger Shark struck a submerged object, causing Winters to fall overboard and drown; Brice then assumed command.
Following Schillings’ death, those aboard Tiger Shark perceive disembodied voices and other eerie events. Working in a ballast tank, Ensign Douglas Odell (Matthew Davis) questions Brice’s account that Winters fell after the submarine struck a submerged object, saying that he felt no such impact. Lieutenant Steven Coors (Scott Foley) tells Odell the true story: Winters, on deck with only Brice, Coors, and Lieutenant Paul Loomis (Holt McCallany), had ordered a gunnery party summoned to fire on the German survivors. When Brice, Loomis, and Coors objected, a heated argument escalated into a physical altercation during which Winters hit his head and fell overboard. To protect Winters' reputation, Coors asks Odell not to tell anyone. Before leaving the ballast tank, Coors dies in a mysterious accident, and Loomis sees Winters' ghost. He escapes from the submarine via an escape trunk while the submarine is underwater, and dies when he is impaled on an outside railing.
A series of bizarre mechanical problems cause the crew to lose control of Tiger Shark, and the submarine turns back towards the site of her sinking of the German ship, apparently of her own volition. Crewmen die in accidents at an alarming rate, and the crew suspect a supernatural influence, questioning Brice's version of Winters death.
Paige and Odell discover that Tiger Shark mistook Fort James for the German submarine tender and sank the British ship; they also learn that Brice, Loomis, and Coors believed they could not afford this drastic mistake to appear on their records and conspired to suppress the story, killing Winters on the deck as he tried to save the survivors of Fort James.
Tiger Shark is crippled by mounting accidents, and only five survivors remain: Brice, Odell, Paige, Stumbo (Jason Flemyng), and "Weird" Wally (Zach Galifianakis). Wally concludes the submarine is haunted by a "malediction" that must be satisfied to escape its netherworld between heaven and hell. After Tiger Shark arrives at the location of the sinking of Fort James and surfaces in a disabled condition, those aboard detect a surface ship nearby. Brice prevents the surviving crew from radioing the ship, but Paige sneaks out on deck and tries to signal the ship with a flashlight. Brice confronts her and holds her at gunpoint. His remorse over the accident overcomes him; he admits the entire cover-up, and shoots himself in the head, falling dead into the ocean.
The ship Paige signals turns out to be British, and picks up the four survivors. Tiger Shark sinks, coming to rest on the ocean floor next to the wreck of Fort James.
- Bruce Greenwood as Lieutenant Brice
- Matthew Davis as Ensign Douglas Odell
- Olivia Williams as Claire Paige
- Holt McCallany as Lieutenant Paul Loomis
- Scott Foley as Lieutenant, Junior Grade Steven Coors
- Zach Galifianakis as "Weird" Wally
- Jason Flemyng as Stumbo
- Dexter Fletcher as Kingsley
- Nick Chinlund as Chief
- Andrew Howard as Hoag
- Christopher Fairbank as Pappy
- Nick Hobbs as Lieutenant Commander Winters
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The producers of Below used USS Silversides, a retired World War II-era U.S. Navy Gato-class submarine that is now a museum ship in Muskegon, Michigan, for exteriors of the fictional USS Tiger Shark. The submarine was towed out into Lake Michigan for filming.
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Film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported an approval rating of 63%, based on 68 reviews, with a rating average of 6.2/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Below is a creepy, claustrophobic exercise in style." The website Metacritic gave the film a weighted average score of 55 out of 100, based on 20 critics, indicating "mixed reviews".
Entertainment Weekly gave the film a B+ rating, calling it a "handsome, haunting submarine thriller". Edward Guthmann from the San Francisco Chronicle gave a mainly negative review stating that the dialogue was "heavy on sarcasm and puncturing insults, never captures the World War II period but sounds ridiculously anachronistic". Variety gave the movie a mixed review stating that "the strenuous seriousness the film applies to an idea that is finally silly at its core steadily increases the impression of overwrought artificiality as matters progress".
- "Below (15)". British Board of Film Classification. November 8, 2002. Retrieved September 20, 2016.
- Below at Rotten Tomatoes
- "Below (2002): Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved March 16, 2008.
- "Below - Movie Review - Entertainment Weekly". Entertainment Weekly. October 9, 2002. Retrieved March 16, 2008.
- Curiel, Jonathan; Guthmann, Edward; Meyer, Carla; Nevius, C.W. (October 18, 2002). "FILM CLIPS / Also opening today". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved March 16, 2008.
- McCarthy, Todd (October 6, 2002). "Below Review - Variety.com". Variety. Retrieved March 16, 2008.