No way up

No way up
Original title:No way up
Director:Claudio Fäh
Running time:90 minutes
Release date:16 february 2024
An airliner comes to a dangerous stop near the edge of a ravine, with the surviving passengers and crew trapped in an air pocket. Their air supply rapidly depleting, a nightmarish struggle for survival ensues as dangers lurk on all sides.

Mulder's Review

Claudio Fäh's No Way Up navigates the murky waters of the shark attack genre with an ambition as profound as its setting. Emerging in the wake of classics like Jaws and the cult frenzy of Sharknado, the film promises a unique blend of horror, survival and drama, centered on an incident that seems too bold to be true - sharks attacking the survivors of a plane crash stranded on the ocean floor. This premise alone could pique the interest of thriller fans, but as the saying goes, the devil is in the details, and unfortunately, No Way Up finds itself navigating a choppy sea of narrative and thematic contradictions.

The film follows Ava, played by Sophie McIntosh, as she embarks on what should have been a leisurely flight to Cabo with her boyfriend Jed, his friend Kyle and her bodyguard Brandon. The narrative quickly shifts from calm skies to chaotic waters as their plane crashes into the ocean, leaving them in a precarious position, submerged and surrounded by predators of the deep. The situation is ripe for a gripping tale of survival, but the execution often leaves much to be desired.

One of No Way Up's biggest obstacles is its difficulty in finding the right tone. Claudio Fäh seeks to elevate the film above ordinary B-movies, giving it a sense of gravity and depth through the exploration of his characters' psychological turmoil. This ambition, while admirable, often clashes with the inherently pulpy nature of its premise. The result is a film that sometimes takes itself too seriously, missing opportunities to fully engage in the thrills that fans of the genre might expect. Instead of reveling in its absurdity, the film meanders through melodrama and character conflicts that, while seeking to add depth, often detract from pace and suspense.

The film's images offer a blend of effective claustrophobia in the plane wreckage and the expansive, menacing beauty of the ocean. Cinematographer Andrew Rodger does a remarkable job of capturing the isolation and vulnerability of the survivors, juxtaposed against the immensity of their aquatic prison. However, these visual assets are occasionally undermined by CGI that struggles to bring the aquatic predators convincingly to life, reminding viewers that the film must balance its ambition with its budgetary constraints.

Performances are solid overall, with McIntosh's Ava serving as a relatable, if not fully fleshed-out, protagonist. Colm Meaney's Brandon offers a glimmer of complexity in his protective dynamic with McIntosh's Ava, but like most of the film, his character's potential isn't fully explored. The supporting cast, tasked with bringing a range of personalities to life, often veer into caricature, not entirely because of their performances but rather because of the script's inability to provide meaningful development beyond superficial character traits.

The sharks, ostensibly the main attraction, unfortunately take a back seat to the interpersonal drama, their appearances sporadic and lacking the visceral impact found in more effective films of the genre. When the film embraces its creature elements, it shines, bringing a captivating tension and sense of peril. However, these moments are fleeting, lost in a sea of narrative indecision that struggles to marry its survival thriller aspirations with the spectacle inherent in its premise.

No Way Up's music and sound design, intended to underscore suspense and isolation, are often at odds with the action on screen, further accentuating the film's tonal inconsistencies. Attempts to build atmosphere are commendable, but frequently clash with the pace of the narrative, creating an ebb and flow that can disengage rather than draw the viewer in.

No Way Up represents a journey full of ambition and potential, but capsized by its identity crisis. It's a film caught between the desire to transcend its genre and the lure of its B-movie roots, ultimately offering a visual experience that, while occasionally thrilling, leaves the viewer wondering what might have been had it fully embraced the absurdity and terror of its central premise. For fans of shark cinema and survival thrillers, No Way Up offers a glimpse of what could be a refreshing depth of narrative and thematic exploration, but ultimately serves as a cautionary tale about the treacherous waters between ambition and execution.

No Way Up
Directed by Claudio Fäh
Written by Andy Mason
Produced by Andy Mason, Annalise Davis 
Starring Sophie McIntosh, Will Attenborough, Jeremias Amoore, Manuel Pacific, Grace Nettle, Phyllis Logan, Colm Meaney
Cinematography : Andrew Rodger
Edited by Adam Recht
Music by Andy Gray
Production companies: Ingenious Media, Altitude Film Entertainment, Dimension Studio, Hyprr Films
Distributed by Altitude Film Distribution (UK/Ireland), RLJE Films (United States)
Release dates : February 16, 2024 (United States)
Running time : 90 minutes

Viewed: February 17, 2024 (VOD)

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