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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