Under Paris Review: I thought Netflix's new shark film would be rubbish but it's a secret masterpiece

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  • Under Paris is available on Netflix worldwide.
  • The film is rated 15+ for injury detail, language, threat, violence. 
  • Directed by Xavier Gens, Under Paris is 1 hour 43 minutes long. 

A mutant shark terrorising the French capital sounds like the kind of mind-numbingly stupid b-movie premise which would drive you in Seine.

Yet somehow, Netflix’s new original film Under Paris manages to be a rollocking good-time - it's just a shame audiences didn’t have the chance to see it on the big screen. 

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Xavier Gens, who is also involved with the hit series Lupin, manages to avoid the usual pitfalls of a monster-attacks movie by avoiding slipping into easy cliches. It also features fantastic performances from the whole cast but in particular the dynamic between Bérénice Bejo as Sophia and Nassim Lyes as Adil is very compelling. 

Starting in the Great Pacific garbage patch, the film introduces its main threat - the unnaturally large mako shark Lillith - in a white-knuckle tense scene as a group of researchers suddenly find themselves in the shark’s crosshairs (or should that be jaw-line). 

Under Paris is on Netflix now. Photo by AFP via Getty ImagesUnder Paris is on Netflix now. Photo by AFP via Getty Images
Under Paris is on Netflix now. Photo by AFP via Getty Images | AFP via Getty Images

The film then jumps forward three years and the action moves to Paris as the capital is on the brink of hosting a major triathlon. Thus follows a slow build up of dread as the main cast of characters - including a group of environmental activists and the river police - soon release Lilith is circling the Seine before all hell inevitably breaks loose. 

Gens and cinematographer Nicolas Massart squeeze every ounce of tension out of the early encounters with Lilith by depicting the Seine as murky and polluted, making it tough for audiences and the characters to make out if that shadow is a shark or a trick of the light. But don’t worry it isn’t all smoke and mirrors, when the shark action kicks in, it truly kicks in. 

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A heart-pounding, increasingly desperate set piece set in the catacombs under Paris - from which the film takes its name - is particularly excellent. The use of flares and cramped corridors help to ratchet up the tension astronomically. 

But the moments that will truly leave your jaw on the floor and stick in the memory for a long time to come arrive in the film’s truly balls-to-the-wall final act and a jaw-dropping denouement. No spoilers, but it might put you off watching the triathlon at the Paris Olympics this summer… 

The film also manages to create fairly reasonable scenarios for why people would be in the water for Lilith to attack without stretching the bounds of credulity. It is genre film work at its finest. 

Gens manages to find the space to offer criticism of post-truth politics and the crushing callousness of bureaucracy, which add further depth to the film. 

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In our world on the brink of climate disaster, it is also a powerful fable on the damage humans have wrought on the planet and how that could come back to bite us (pun intended). Perhaps fortunately in Britain, our rivers and beaches have been so tarnished by sewage that there would be no one in the water for a shark to attack. 

Despite the rather middling title, Under Paris manages to swim to the top as one of the best films released so far in 2024. 

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