Renny Harlin's fairly big budget take on shark horror, Deep Blue Sea, begins when a group of scientists discover that the cure to Alzheimer's Syndrome may be in an ingredient found only in the bodies of nature's most perfect killing machine - the shark. There's logic to this, as sharks do live a long time and don't really seem to age very much when compared to people. Regardless, a foxy scientist named Susan McAllister (Saffron Burrows) decides to spearhead a research project in which she'll get some corporate backing, catch some sharks and put them inside a giant super science facility in hopes of studying them and figuring out if anything can be done to help mankind.
That financial backing? It comes in the form of a rich dude named Russell Franklin (Samuel L. Jackson), who she's convinced to spend a weekend at the facility along with herself and her assistant, Carter Blake (Thomas Jane). Everything seems to be going perfectly at first, they extract what they need from the captive shark and seem to be on the right track until an irritated shark mangles a scientist, unleashing a wave of attacks on and in the facility by scores of hyper intelligent Mako sharks. As their surroundings crumble and flood and the sharks move ever closer, the ocean itself begins to close in on them.
There really isn't much to this movie - the plot exists only to move us from one shark attack scene to the next, a skeleton really, there only to hang the set pieces in place. Keep your expectations in check when you go into this one and you can have quite a bit of good, completely disposable fun with it, but don't go in expecting the rich characters or foreboding tension of Jaws or the jawdroppingly ridiculous set pieces of some of the Shark Attack films that have earned a justifiable cult following over the years. This picture lays somewhere in the middle, trying to pass itself off as something semi-serious but not bothering to do much, story wise, to elevate itself about its very obvious B-movie trappings.
The film is entertaining, however. There are some pacing issues here and there and the whole thing feels about fifteen minutes too long for how thin the storyline really is, but the cast are having fun here. Saffron Burrows is sexier than any shark expert-scientist type has any right to be and plays her part well enough, while Samuel Jackson is Samuel Jackson and if he's not stretching much in this role, his screen presence adds a welcome charisma to the picture. Thomas Jane has also got an effectively macho screen presence here, playing his part with enough tough guy attitude to make it work - we can buy him as a shark expert, it's not much of a stretch.
Where Deep Blue Sea loses marks, however, is in the effects department. When the film is using live sharks, there is a fair bit of tension to enjoy, but when it reverts to computerized effects and mechanical sharks, well, by modern standards it doesn't hold up very well. Harlin shoots it all rather nicely and shows us that his expertise in technique hasn't waned one bit, but there are certain sequences that are obviously fake and that does hurt the picture a bit. But maybe I'm over thinking it. This is a film about hyper smart man-eating sharks wreaking death and destruction in an undersea laboratory, after all. It's meant to be a fun popcorn movie, not a new arthouse classic and on that level, aged effects or not, you can have a good time with this one.
Deep Blue Sea looks good in this VC-1 encoded 1080p 2.40.1 high definition widescreen presentation. Color reproduction looks strong through there are a few scenes that look to have been given a slight red tinting for some reason. Print damage is never an issue as the picture is consistently clean while a welcome coat of fine film grain is present throughout. Detail is improved over the standard definition release in many ways, though some shots do look a bit softer than you might want them to. Close up shots fare the best and show off some great facial detail, while long distance shots aren't quite as sharp as they could have been. Overall, however, the transfer does look pretty good and is quite a bit improved over the previous DVD offering.
The primary audio track on this disc is an English language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio mix, though standard definition Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound mixes are provided in French, German and Spanish with Warner's typically impressive array of optional subtitles available in English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German SDH, Bulgarian, Croatian, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Hebrew, Korean, Norwegian, Romanian, Swedish. The DTS-HD track supplied here is a good one with plenty of aggressive channel separation present throughout the movie. Rear channels are used well and frequently and add a whole lot of nice ambient noise and directional effects to the proceedings while dialogue is well balanced and easy to follow. Bass is strong enough to carry some decent impact when the movie calls for it and there are no problems with hiss or distortion to complain about. This isn't the best of the best as far as Blu-ray mixes go, but it does offer a very obvious and impressive upgrade over the DVD that came before it and the film's fans should be quite pleased.
The best of the extras on this disc, all of which have been carried over from the previous DVD release, is the commentary track with director Renny Harlin and star Samuel L. Jackson. This is a fairly straight laced, scene specific talk that pays a fair bit of attention to what it was like working alongside some giant mechanical sharks and the problems that can arise under shooting locations such as that. Other topics covered include casting, effects work, locations versus soundstage shooting, script revisions and critical reception to the film. It's a decent, if fairly predictable talk, that covers all the bases that you'd want it to.
From there we get the first of the featurettes on the disc, When Sharks Attack, a fifteen minute behind the scenes piece that focuses on using real sharks versus mechanical sharks, how computers play a part in this, what it's like working with these creatures, and how it all comes together on film. The second featurette on the disc is Sharks Of The Deep Blue Sea, which is an eight minute segment that covers the shark attack sequences in the film. Rounding out the extras are five deleted scenes available with optional commentary from Harlin, the film's original theatrical trailer, menus and chapter stops. All of the supplements on this disc are presented in standard definition.
Deep Blue Sea isn't, well, deep at all but on a superficial level it's a fair bit of fun. Shark junkies will appreciate it more than most but the movie is an entertaining if vapid mix of action, horror and adventure speedily directed by Renny Harlin and featuring an interesting and game cast. Warner's Blu-ray release looks pretty good and sounds even better and manages to carry over all of the extras from the DVD release. Recommended for fans of the film, a fine time killer of a rental for those not already familiar with the picture.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.