No Way Up

How’s this for a premise? An airplane crashes into the ocean and gets stuck on the edge of an underwater ravine. The few survivors find themselves in an airlock. They could theoretically swim out the big hole that was torn in the side of the aircraft, but there are hungry sharks swimming around right outside. Some of them even enter through that hole. That’s the gist of No Way Up, a delightfully wacky mash-up of disaster movie, survival tale, and shark attack thriller.

The passengers include a governor’s daughter (Sophie McIntosh) and her bodyguard (Colm Meaney); her boyfriend (Jeremias Amoree) and his wisecracking buddy (Will Attenborough); a 10-year-old girl (Grace Nettle) and her grandparents (James Carroll Jordan and Downton Abbey’s Phyllis Logan); and a flight attendant (Manuel Pacific). The group has to figure out how they might get back to the surface without becoming shark food. Not all of them make it until the film’s end.

The critic Pauline Kael famously said, “Movies are so rarely great art that if we cannot appreciate great trash, we have very little reason to be interested in them.” No Way Up is great trash. Actually, trash is too harsh a word. Let’s instead say that it’s a great B-movie. In fact, it has pretty much everything I want in a B-movie. There are gory shark kills, preposterous plot developments, and intermittent flashes of humor to let us know the film isn’t taking itself too seriously.

The fun comes in how the plot combines all these different forms of danger, then cranks them up. The plane doesn’t just crash, it intermittently careens closer to the edge of the ravine. Sharks aren’t just outside the plane, they get inside, too. Sounds of the walls and ceiling starting to buckle can be heard, making the characters very aware that the thing could implode at any second. As for the expert divers sent down to check for survivors? Wait and see.

Writer Andy Mayson lets his creativity run wild, not only with the perils but also with the methods the group uses to get through their ordeal. The low-tech way they fend off the sharks is highly amusing – and, weirdly, fact-based. Working from this script, director Claudio Fäh gives the picture a tight pace that ensures your mind never wanders. Something is always happening or on the verge of happening.

If you enjoy getting on that B-movie wavelength, you’ll be entertained by all the unapologetic mayhem in No Way Up. It is what it is – a cheerfully implausible thrill ride.

out of four

No Way Up is rated R for language and bloody/grisly images. The running time is 1 hour and 30 minutes.

© 2024 Mike McGranaghan