Underrated Movie #89: BelowMatt Bird
Director: David Twohy
Writers: Lucas Sussman & Darren Aronofsky and David Twohy
Stars: Bruce Greenwood, Olivia Williams, Matthew Davis, Holt McCallany, Zach Galifianakis
How it Came to be Underrated: The Weinsteins can do a great job distributing a movie, when they feel like it, but they’re more often happy to consign it to the briny deep. After Aronofsky decided he wasn’t going to direct this one himself, Harvey and Bob never regained interest and dumped the final product quietly, which is a shame since it’s an effective little thriller.
- This was the first time I noticed a forceful young actor named Holt McCallany, and he’s shown up occasionally since, but he hasn’t achieved the stardom he deserves. In the fall he’ll star in a well-pedigreed boxing show on FX, so hopefully that will finally be his big break.
- Unfortunately, though most of the ensemble cast is great, what hurt the movie the most was that the actual hero is played by a bland Cary Elwes lookalike named Matthew Davis. Of course, the script does him no favors—the character has no special skills!
- I’ve tried to write “ghost who wants to expose an injustice” movies before and been stymied by a problematic question: are we rooting for the ghost or not? After all, the ghost is also endangering our heroes, who didn’t know about the injustice, but we want the truth to come out. This movie sidesteps those issues neatly, keeping the focus on the interpersonal and naval conflicts, relegating the supernatural to an elemental, unpersonified force.
- The conspiracy is handled well. The trick with conspiracy movies is that it has to be something that can come undone slowly. The heroes should only see a little problem at first, unraveling a string of little lies, one by one. The conspirators are the able to admit bits along the way, adjusting their story to stay out in front of the ultimate truth. The danger is that you wind up with one big “everything you know is wrong” reveal and the rest of the movie just lies there. Inevitably, you’ll have to reveal that big twist in the trailer, and then you’re left with nothing.
- And one more tricky area that’s handled well: one problem with a setting like a submarine is that you have to explain everything that could go wrong before it happens, which kills the surprise. This movie does a good job casually mentioning potential dangers-- just enough so that we’ll see recognize the big problems as soon as they actually come up.