Stream It Or Skip It: 'Under Paris' on Netflix, a Shark-in-the-Seine ...

6 Jun 2024

By John Serba

Published June 5, 2024, 6:00 p.m. ET

Thanks to Shark Week and Sharknado, it doesn’t take much to get a goofy-ass shark movie greenlit these days – hence Under Paris (now on Netflix), whose pitch line was likely, “What if a giant shark cruised up the Seine – days before a triathlon?” If you’re worried that this is just another purposely-bad-CG Syfy original, allay those concerns, because veteran director Xavier Gens (you should see his deranged debut, Frontier(s)) is on the job, with Berenice Bejo (an Oscar nominee for The Artist) in the lead. But having some recognizable names involved doesn’t mean the movie can’t be at least a little bit ridiculous, as I found out. (Note: The film is the subject of a copyright lawsuit that may see it get pulled from Netflix, so if you’re all in on seeing it, you might want to get to it soon.)


The Gist: We open with one of those hilarious overly detailed subtitles: NORTH PACIFIC. MISSION OCEAN ORIGINS. PROJECT “EVOLUTIONS.” A BUNCH OF LONGITUDE AND LATITUDE GIBBERISH. This is very important detail! Why? Because knowing the longitude and latitude to 25 digits is crucial to understanding that this scene is playing out in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, duh! We’re on a boat with some shark people who tag sharks and track sharks and study sharks and aren’t at all afraid of sharks – BUT THEY SHOULD BE. I’d name them but, as you’re no doubt delighted to learn, some of them don’t last very long, because what is a shark movie without someone’s chomped-off arm floating through the water? Sophia (Bejo) barely survives an encounter with a toothy sweetie named Lilith that she’s been following for a while – a toothy sweetie who’s tripled in size in an astonishingly short amount of time, and has become terribly aggressive. So it goes.

THREE YEARS LATER, BUT WE DON’T NEED LONGITUDE AND LATITUDE BECAUSE WE’RE IN PARIS NOW. Sophia works at the aquarium, conducting informational tours for nasty little school shits who tease her about how her former research team became chum. She meets a couple of young women, Mika (Lea Leviant) and Caro (Sandra Parfait), who have a super badass underground lair full of computers and a big projector and screen that they use to track sharks because they love sharks and want to protect sharks. Don’t ask how they afford all this. They’ve spotted a shark in the Seine River, and it’s not just any shark, it’s Lilith, her tracker still intact, and all of Sophia’s trauma comes flooding back. Now, we shouldn’t ask why the very same shark that nearly ate Sophia is now essentially ringing her doorbell pretending to be delivering a candygram, but I’m going to ask it anyway, and make the very reasonable assumption that it’s not a coincidence, but rather a Jaws: The Revenge development where the shark knows where she lives and wants to finish the job. Who says sharks don’t deserve a little closure too?

Sophia gets the river cops involved, led by Adil (Nassim Lyes), who doesn’t believe her assertion that there’s a giant shark in his river, because that has to be a big raging pile of bull roar, right? It takes some cheesy jump scares and some chomping on his fellow cops to convince him that it’s not, though. They go to the mayor (Anne Marivin), a very aggressive eater of lunch who just doesn’t want to hear any of this because she just spent like a billion dollars on PR and logistics for a triathlon that’s a trial run for the Olympics, so get the hell out of her office with this shark nonsense, please, prompting all of us to put her at the top of the list of people who need to get chomped. Wait, did I just type “triathlon”? As in “hundreds of swimmers splashing around like bait”? I did. Oh hell. Will Sophie and Adil save them or WILL THE SEINE FLOW WITH BLOOD? God, I hope it’s the latter. 

Under Paris Photo: Netflix

What Movies Will It Remind You Of?: With zero apologies whatsoever to The Meg, Under Paris is the best shark movie since please-don’t-eat-Blake-Lively thriller The Shallows. And yes, I know that’s not saying much. 

Performance Worth Watching: With all due respect to a vet like Bejo, who very ably sells some of this silliness, we’re not here to see her. No, we’re here to see how fake the CGI shark looks. 

Memorable Dialogue: Sophia explains away all the plot holes about little sharky-poo’s unusual behavior: “Lilith is the first of a new species.”

Sex and Skin: No time for love when you’re trying not to get apex-predatored.

Our Take: But, I can hear you asking, does all this pay off? Yeah, sort of. The action and drama ramps up for a third act that hits ludicrous speed – it really goes plaid – in a pair of sequences that are a bit hacked-up in the editing room, but deliver some reasonably satisfying carnage, and can be pretty merciless when it comes to the fates of key characters. The film courts ingenuity by setting scenes in the flooded underground catacombs of Paris, which is a way of setting shark-slaughter in an ancient crypt without contorting reality too egregiously. You won’t be surprised to learn that our heroes concoct a Plan So Crazy It Might Just Work, even though it’s kind of confusing and murkily executed when it comes down to showing us what exactly is going on.

But this also means we don’t get any real laughs out of Under Paris for more than an hour – which may lead you to believe that the movie might be “about” something, like evolution or climate change or (sigh) trauma. Don’t bite on those red herrings though. Gens clamps down on the tone and keeps things fairly serious — he sidesteps campiness for the most part, which is no easy feat — until the jackass mayor turns up as the villain who consciously doesn’t give a rip about human life, unlike the shark, who’s just doing as her instincts dictate: Being entertaining in a dumbass movie. Isn’t that what sharks were put on this planet to do? 

Our Call: We don’t go into a shark thriller with high expectations, so Under Paris being merely good enough is plenty to warrant a recommendation. STREAM IT. 

John Serba is a freelance writer and film critic based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. 

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