A young and ambitious playwright in the time of Queen Elizabeth the 1st makes the travel to London to showcase his wares. The young bard's name? Bill. Young Bill has a play in mind that will one day become the talk of London and, considering how the Queen's personal playwright is far from up to scratch, may even be performed before the Queen herself. But when a group of revolutionaries decide to use the play as the staging point for their plot to kill the Queen, Bill must fight to not only put on a performance to launch his career, but save the audience from assassination. It's all in a day's work for William Shakespeare, however.
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Already packed solid with all the claustrophobic wartime tension a good submarine thriller needs, "Below" squeezes in something more -- a startling, bone-chilling element of the supernatural.
Set onboard an American sub called the USS Tiger Shark, cruising the Atlantic during World War II, the tightly drawn story begins with the boat doubling back on its planned course under orders to rescue the only three survivors of a torpedoed British hospital ship -- a crewman, a badly burned patient and a nurse (Olivia Williams), who causes consternation among the crew. She's pretty, sure. But more importantly, maritime superstition holds that women are bad luck on a submarine.
Director David Twohy ("Pitch Black") wastes no time in building seat-gripping suspense. The Tiger Shark's sonar officer picks up an unknown contact just as the sub is surfacing amongst the sunken steamer's debris, so the rescue becomes a palpably perilous race against time. The scene is nerve-wracking, thanks in no small part to Twohy's touches of tense creativity (all the dread he needs is found in a single shot looking back at the captain's eye from inside the periscope) and a potently unsettling, untraditionally military score by Graeme Revell ("Pitch Black," "Blow," "Tomb Raider").
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