How can a "plane crash shark attack" movie be this sinfully dull? Claudio Fäh's No Way Up swings for the moon with its sunken premise but doesn't fulfill much of the B-Movie potential this fin-slash-disaster flick promises. Writer Andy Mayson transports viewers to the bottom of the sea in an unpredictable fashion, but the vacation nightmare’s swerve into chompy aquatic horror doesn’t blend into storytelling all that well. Fäh and Mayson desperately attempt to make No Way Up more than just an eye-catching poster that sounds hatched from a 30 Rock character's pitch, only to run out of storytelling steam in record time.

Mayson begins with a sparsely booked flight bound for Cabo that suffers catastrophic engine damage caused by a now-mincemeat flock of birds. Shrapnel tears free, piercing the plane's fuselage and blowing a hole wide open that sucks passengers out while the aircraft plummets downward into the Pacific Ocean. Survivors including anxious young adult Ava (Sophie McIntosh), her bodyguard Brandon (Colm Meaney), and Ava's companions watch in horror as the damaged plane sinks until hitting an underwater canyon’s cliffside edge. The good news is there's an air pocket in the back of the attendant's area where they can formulate an escape plan. The bad news? As if drowning, suffocation, and infected wounds aren't threatening enough, hungry sharks set their eyes on the survivors as their next meal.

No Way Up tries to execute Sharks on a Plane through realism. Shark attack films often struggle to sell why targeted characters are stuck in their predicaments, and Mayson's screenplay fumbles the same problem. Exploding an airplane's engine is easy — turning the in-tact parts of metal wreckage into a hellish submersible long enough to sustain life for 90 minutes is where plotting gets tricky. The film's farcical circumstances take themselves incredibly seriously, trying to logic the illogical, begging for more of a Deep Blue Sea spliced with Snakes on a Plane vibe. We're here for the sharky dangers, yet spend the majority of No Way Up with underwritten characters and their panicky bubbled-in dramas.

When blessed with the offhanded shark attack, Fäh delivers no goods. As is the kiss of death for countless contemporary fin flicks, dodgy computer animation brings the creatures to life. Brandon's first encounter with one of the ferocious predators says everything about the film's confidence in its digital effects — choppy editing won't allow for a clear view of the beast before cutting away to another perspective. Editor Adam Recht sends scenes into a dizzying sequence of cut-aways meant to obstruct our vision, because No Way Up doesn't have the means to dazzle us with practical jawsomeness. It's giving Black Demon and The Requin comparisons, two atrocious shark movies that cheap out on the very selling point of their underwater assassins.

Truth be told, great white animatronics wouldn't be enough to save this constantly sinking disaster film. Sophie McIntosh is a fine enough lead under pressure, but her obnoxiously disrespectful friend Kyle (played by Will Attenborough) and stale romantic interest (played by Jeremias Amoore) are hardly even caricature outlines. Meaney's playing a protective stereotype ditched too soon, Phyllis Logan's grandmotherly warmth is wasted, and the emotional ploys feel so inorganically weightless. Mayson has trouble writing authentic hero dialogue and forces his characters into harm's way for the sake of another chewed-open limb because the script never naturally gets there on its own. Deaths occur at weird times, decisions come out of left field, and all the best material — Ava's usage of a red flair to light a dark, tight corridor — is "borrowed" from the 47 Meters Down franchise (No Way Up shares the same Executive Producers).

Mark another shark cinema entry that breaks my heart. No Way Up can't rescue itself from an overly grounded tone, missing the thrills and excitement of this once-in-a-lifetime nightmare. The film is unable to entertain audiences with either the survival absurdity of a sunken airplane tomb or the creature-feature behaviors of it all. No Way Up is a disappointingly underperforming interpretation of an otherwise SYFY-bonkers plot, unable to avoid the issues that plague a majority of fin flicks that bite off more than they can chew.

Movie Score: 2/5

  • Matt Donato
    About the Author - Matt Donato

    Matt Donato is a Los Angeles-based film critic currently published on SlashFilm, Fangoria, Bloody Disgusting, and anywhere else he’s allowed to spread the gospel of Demon Wind. He is also a member of the Critics Choice Association. Definitely don’t feed him after midnight.