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Should I Watch..? 'Deep Blue Sea' (1999)

Updated on April 3, 2022
Benjamin Cox profile image

Benjamin is a former volunteer DJ at his local hospital radio station. He has been reviewing films online since 2004.

Poster for the film
Poster for the film | Source

What's the big deal?

Deep Blue Sea is a science-fiction horror film released in 1999 and was co-written by Australian screenwriter Duncan Kennedy and writer partners Donna & Wayne Powers. Not to be confused with the Terrance Rattigan play The Deep Blue Sea or either of its movie adaptations, the film was directed by Renny Harlin and features Samuel L Jackson, Thomas Jane and Saffron Burrows among others. Kennedy originally wrote the screenplay to purge himself of recurring nightmares he was having involving sharks reading his mind. "Whenever anyone mentions a shark movie, they naturally think of Steven Spielberg." he once said. "The problem approaching a shark movie is how do you do it without repeating Jaws?"


3 stars for Deep Blue Sea

What's it about?

Aquatica is a remote science research station dedicated to finding a cure for Alzheimer's disease. Led by Dr Susan McCallister, they concentrate on harvesting the brain fluid of Mako sharks in their efforts for a cure although, unknown to the other scientists, Dr McCallister genetically altered the brains of the sharks to make them bigger. This has had the effect of making the Mako sharks a lot smarter and more dangerous.

Aquatica's financial backers send executive Russell Franklin to the facility to investigate after one of the sharks escapes and attacks a boat full of teenagers. It soon appears that the sharks aren't too keen on their human captors and after one of the researchers is killed, a chain of events that puts everyone's lives at risk is set in motion. Will any of them survive as the facility starts to flood or will the sharks have some lunch instead?


What's to like?

There's no getting around the fact that as brilliant as Spielberg's Jaws was, it did look a little ropey in places. That's why Deep Blue Sea makes every effort to make its sharks look as real as possible by using CG and animatronics. And it broadly works - the film's beasties look every inch the mean, hungry killing machines they're supposed. They're also a hundred times better than anything you've seen in any of the Sharknado movies but then again, I'm fairly sure I could animate a shark better than The Asylum.

The other thing is that despite its linear plot leanings, it does keep the surprises coming. This is some achievement for a film which is basically your standard nature-fighting-back movie with a hint of slasher movie thrown in for good measure. It knows that it's not going to be getting any invites to prestigious award ceremonies so it concentrates on being the most gory, explosive and overblown shark movie ever made. On that front, mission accomplished.

Stellan Skarsgard gets up, close and personal with a shark head - presumably the body was inserted in post-production
Stellan Skarsgard gets up, close and personal with a shark head - presumably the body was inserted in post-production | Source

Fun Facts

  • Director Renny Harlin describes Deep Blue Sea as the hardest film he's ever made.
  • The licence plate pulled from the shark's teeth is the exact same one found in the tiger shark in Jaws.
  • Harlin, being Finnish, has a habit of referring to his homeland in his movies. Here, there is a Finnish flag in Janice's room, one of the items on a shopping list is Finnish pancakes and Finlandia vodka is seen being drunk in some shots.

What's not to like?

Shark movies, by their very nature, are both predictable and ridiculous at the same time - nobody is going to claim that Deep Blue Sea challenges this as it blunders its way through every shark-based cliché going. If you want in a film is seeing sharks eat people then you'll be satisfied. Personally, I wanted something more. Tension, perhaps or maybe some script deviation from simply guessing which cast members would survive for a possible sequel.

The other problem is that nearly all the characters are pretty unlikeable which meant that I was cheering for the sharks in a shark-movie - not good. Yes, the various deaths are mildly entertaining and there are a couple of shocks but not many. Take the scene where the good looking Dr McCallister's only apparent hope of survival is to peel off her wetsuit, stand still in her undies and zap the shark with electric cables. If that doesn't scream B-Movie then I don't know what does! It is, quite literally, a big shark in a small pond.

Saffron Burrows strips to survive. It made sense to someone somewhere...
Saffron Burrows strips to survive. It made sense to someone somewhere... | Source

Should I watch it?

It may be undeniably cheesy and about as original as a TV talent show but Deep Blue Sea keeps the recipe simple and delivers a tasty treat. By keeping it basic, it allows the CG monsters to do the talking and chomping which, if you're honest, is all you really care about. It's fun, yes, but it fails to reinvent the genre in the same way that Sharknado has by trying to be the stupidest film on the planet. Consider it halfway between Jaws and Sharknado - nowhere near as terrifying but nowhere near as dreadful.

Great For: environmentalists, B movie fans, fans of the Sharknado series

Not So Great For: fishermen, National Geographic, people who really don't like sharks

What else should I watch?

Shark-based movies don't come along that often unless you count those endless rip-offs from The Asylum that seem to appear every few months like Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus, Mega Shark vs. Crocosaurus and my personal favourite, Two-Headed Shark Attack. I realise that the Sharknado series is also a product of The Asylum Studios but because it had the temerity to raise its head out of the gutter and get noticed, I felt it would have been unfair if I had treated it differently to the other movies I review here. It is, of course, absolute garbage and only worth the attention of fools or masochists. Similarly, these people would probably also enjoy Piranha 3DD but please don't take that as a recommendation. It's every bit as dumb as its title.

Otherwise, why not stick with the original product? Jaws is still held in high regard and literally rules the waves when it comes to angry aquatic life-forms, even over the predictable flood of terrible sequels that followed. It got it right first time and you know what they say about things that aren't broken...

Main Cast

Samuel L Jackson
Russell Franklin
Thomas Jane
Carter Blake
Saffron Burrows
Dr. Susan McCallister
LL Cool J
Jacqueline McKenzie
Janice Higgins
Stellan Skarsgård
Jim Whitlock
Michael Rapaport
Tom Scoggins

Technical Info

Renny Harlin
Duncan Kennedy, Donna Powers, Wayne Powers
Running Time
105 minutes
Release Date (UK)
15th October, 1999
Action, Sci-Fi, Horror

© 2015 Benjamin Cox


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