Under Paris, Netflix Movie Reveiw: A Shark Invasion in The Seine Threatens The City


The review of Under Paris, the film by Xavier Gens, in which a huge shark endangers the French capital during the Olympics.

Disaster movies starring animals of great ferocity and size are a genre that has always been particularly fashionable in Hollywood, think of classics such as Anaconda and Tremors or more recent experiments such as Shark. They are stories that work because they combine the atmosphere of a thriller with some of the typical elements of science fiction, namely the clash with creatures that transcend their own nature and seem almost "alien". Without touching extremes like the Sharknado saga, this type of title most of the time works because it is capable of combining the adrenaline of the survival story with a typically light-hearted tone, which makes the spectator's adventure decidedly more fun.

As we will see in this review of Under Paris, Netflix focuses on the genre with a Made in France product, a film that combines the most classic elements of this type of story (in this case we have a genetically mutated giant shark) with a more attentive look at current affairs, the story is in fact set during the 2024 Olympics and the themes that form the basis of the narrative (and kick off the "mutation") are the irremediable pollution of the Oceans and climate change. 

Having said this, however, something is missing in the film directed by Xavier Gens, namely that self-irony, that deliberately light-hearted nature that we talked about just above and which made the success of its American counterparts: Under Paris takes itself too seriously, he is too intent on getting his message across – about pollution, climate change, respect for the oceans – that he forgets to entertain the viewer. And in a film of this type, we told you, it is fundamental.

A threat in the Seine

At the center of this story, we find the researcher Sophia, played by Bérénice Bejo. The film opens with a tragic accident involving her entire team (which also includes her beloved husband): one of the sharks they are studying, renamed Lilith, massacres without motivation (that species in particular is not aggressive against the human race) the group of scientists. Three years later Sophia lives in Paris and works in an aquarium, trying to explain to the little ones why it is so important to protect and preserve our oceans. 

One day Sophia is approached by Mika, a young and ambitious environmentalist who reveals a secret to her: she is part of an organization of young extremists who fight for the planet and monitor the movements of sharks between seas and oceans with the use of technology. For some time they have been following Lilith who, she will reveal to a shocked Sophia, has arrived in the Seine, adapting to survive even in fresh water.

From this discovery, things will soon come to a head: the Olympics are approaching (and the long-awaited triathlon in the Seine), the mayor of Paris absolutely does not want to postpone the event, and the local police are absolutely not prepared to manage the emergency. As if that wasn't enough, the bottom of the Parisian river is studded with unexploded mines from the Second World War, any poorly planned action against the shark could therefore trigger a chain reaction with terrible consequences. The situation becomes extremely tragic when Sophia and Adil, a former soldier now commander of the river police, discover the reason why Lilith took refuge in the Seine: it is the perfect place to build her nest and give birth to hundreds of sharks as dangerous as her...

Taking yourself too seriously

As we anticipated at the beginning, the big flaw of this film, and what inevitably makes it less engaging in the eyes of the viewer, is the tone chosen: this kind of story must evoke dark and adrenaline-filled atmospheres, but they also need a certain humor to diffuse the tension (think of the funny and amused Jason Statham in Shark).

A joke every now and then, an impossible situation that is unexpectedly resolved, an over-the-top protagonist who heroically saves other characters from certain death, these are all elements that are fundamental in this kind of title. Under Paris always remains "inside the lines" and, even if it tells the story of a gigantic genetically modified shark that nests in the Seine, feeds on Parisians, and gives birth to thousands of its own kind, it never seeks that much-needed "comic release".

Berenice Bejo and the rest of the cast

An actress of the caliber of Bérénice Bejo lifts the situation quite a bit, giving her character the right amount of depth. What is missing, however, is the development of the secondary characters, who remain too much in the background to create the right emotional connection with them. When the characters in this story start to die – obviously going looking for a gigantic shark in the flooded Parisian catacombs is a predictable consequence – the viewer is not as involved as he should be and the film doesn't have the emotional weight that it would like to achieve.

Even the "villain" on duty, the mayor of Paris played, is too caricatured: if the motivations of Mayor Larry Vaughn in Jaws (however stupid) had their own sense, the cruel politics of Under Paris is so absurdly irresponsible and so reckless as to be extremely unrealistic. His presence is necessary exclusively to move the plot forward in a certain direction, preparing the ground for the disastrous ending that the film wants to reach, and he has absolutely no depth as a character. Unfortunately, to top it all off, there is a special effects department that is not particularly up to the ambition of the film: the scenes in which Lilith shows herself in all her cruel splendor, and dines with many of the characters, are made less effective by a Far too fake CGI.

In conclusion, we are sorry to say it, but perhaps this Parisian version of Shark would have worked better with a more American tone of voice: we can therefore only dream of a version in which Lilith goes up the Mississippi and attacks Saint Louis.


Under Paris is a disaster movie with an interesting premise but which completely gets the tone wrong: to work this type of film must also focus on a certain lightness, which in this case is completely missing.
Overall Score