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The Strangest Disaster Movie of the Year Is Streaming Now on Netflix

Take a stroll down the Chomps-Élysées.

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Disaster movies are timeless because, well, there’s so much that can go wrong. An airborne illness can sweep the planet. A massive earthquake could turn California to rubble. Global warming could throw the world into chaos. These movies work because the scenario feels real, even if the specifics are usually exaggerated for the sake of an awesome explosion or two.

But sometimes, the most amazing disaster movies come from the most unlikely of possibilities — like an alien invasion, or the Moon crashing down to Earth, or a Sharknado. Now, thanks to Netflix, we can add one more movie to that popular subgenre.

Currently streaming on Netflix, the French disaster film Under Paris does justice to its unbelievably ridiculous premise with the kind of steel-faced seriousness that gives the script the gravity it needs. And for a movie about a killer cloning shark roaming the Seine, it needs a lot.

Under Paris begins with a quote from Charles Darwin about evolution. Well, not from Charles Darwin, but based on his work. If he were alive, he would presumedly agree with it, but would maybe have some thoughts about the rest of the movie. We then meet marine biologist Sophia (Bérénice Bejo) leading a crew, including her husband, on a journey to check up on mako sharks outside the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

But the shark they’ve been chasing, a female they’ve affectionately named Lilith, turns out to be much bigger than expected. The diving crew pays the price, leaving Sophia with nothing more than her husband’s severed hand as a souvenir.

Flash forward to three years later, and Sophia is tracked down by an underground environmentalist group with grim news: Lilith is still kicking, and she’s somehow managed to make her way up the Seine just in time for a huge triathlon that will put hundreds of delicious people right into her path. It’s up to Sophia, the local authorities, and the environmentalists to keep everyone safe.

Lilith terrorizes the authorities in Paris’ catacombs in Under Paris.

Netflix

Under Paris is both a deeply unserious movie and one of the most intense viewing experiences you’ll ever have. One minute it’s a gory bloodbath, the next we casually learn that Lilith has managed to reproduce asexually. In other words, life found a way, Jurassic Park style.

The set pieces range from the absurd, like a bottleneck sit-in held in the catacombs (because the movie is called Under Paris so there has to be catacombs), to the genuinely interesting, like the final showdown between Sophia and Lilith at the triathlon that incorporates a Chekhov’s gun trope in a gasp-worthy way.

It all leads to a finale Stephen King called “amazing,” and for good reason. Without getting into spoilers, it does something many realistic disaster movies are terrified of: it allows itself to be silly. The final bit of storytelling comes in an epilogue over the end credits that would be absurd out of context but after the 100 minutes of shark-fueled action is actually harrowing.

Under Paris is a masterclass in how to create an over-the-top movie. While Hollywood blockbusters cover everything in polished high production values and B-movie shlock (think Sharknado papering over its flaws with constant jokes and meta one-liners), this movie acts like the most serious film in the world for the first half before leaning into absurdly big swings for its final moments. In any other movie, it would feel like too much, but for Under Paris, it’s just enough.

Under Paris is now streaming on Netflix.

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