16 May 2004 | bob the moo
Poor acting, bad script and lifeless direction all combine to make this a total non-event
As part of a new cooperative programme between research bodies and the military, the Portland nuclear submarine sets off on a several week mission with the three-man crew of a smaller submarine on board and the mini-sub attached to the bodywork. When the environmentalists are out in their mini-sub doing work, the main submarine collides with a Russian submarine and, badly damaged, plummets to the seabed where it rests totally disabled and trapped beneath thousands of feet of ice. With their craft still intact and powered up, the research team are the only hope for the Portland's crew.
A submarine movie with Baldwin in it? Sounds great I haven't seen Red October for ages! What? Oh. It's Stephen Baldwin. And it's a much lower budget affair than Red October. Despite this I thought I'd give this film a good in the hope that it would give some low budget tension and excitement. Modern submarine movies have shown that, even with a reasonable story, it is easy to generate tension in a confined, predominately male environment where danger is all around Crimson Tide and Red October are both good examples of this. However Sub Down doesn't seem able to be exciting once. Although the film has a low budget it cannot hide behind that excuse for this failing the fault lies with the script and the direction. The dialogue is poor pretty consistently whether it be unrealistic and silly banter between characters who are moments from death or the sheer improbability of the plot. These failings could have been covered if the film had been tense and involving but sadly it is not it is flat and surprisingly dull.
Of course part of this is down to budget, but the director could still have used the movement of the camera, music and urgent performances to convince us that everything was urgent and dangerous. However he doesn't his direction is very much a matter of setting a camera and filming, there was no style and sense of using the camera as a dramatic aid rather than just a method of recording the story. Even death scenes and scenes of sacrifice are delivered with very little emotion or tension again proof of just how flat and unengaging the whole thing was. For a low budget film the effects were OK. The internals of the sub were a little too wooden and lacking in metal to convince and it did look like a soundstage, however the external shots work OK. The one thing with the externals in submarine movies is that even average model work can be covered by the lack of light underwater hence the dark shapes gliding around in this film convinced me just a shame that the scenes with the two subs are edited too quickly, diminishing the impact and the excitement. It is a shame, because the basic 'sub trapped on sea bed' idea has potential but this film squanders almost all of it. By the time the stupid (yet sadly predictable) conclusion comes, it is unlikely you'll care anymore.
Even some of the effects hide the low budget, the cast do not how far down a wish list do you reckon a podgy, doggy-haired Baldwin comes? Here is a dumb hippy stereotype and never wins the audience. Partly it is the fault of the script as his dialogue is mostly bad and he has no character, but Baldwin is bad even with me making excuses for him. Anwar overplays her English accent to the detriment of sounding like a real person. Conti is as low rent as they come and is really slumming it here. The support cast includes some typically gruff and heroic performances from bargain-basement actors such as Mulkey and Plana recognisable faces but they have nothing to do but try and be gruff and heroic a job the script makes harder for them.
Overall a bad script, a bad plot, average acting and bad direction all combine to suck any potential out of this film, leaving it floundering, lifeless as it totally fails to ever really get going or engage the audience. It takes real effort to take this basic premise and suck all tension and excitement out of it but sadly, this film manages to do it from the very start.