‘No Way Up’ review: sharks on a plane that outlines a nightmare

You have to suspend disbelief to watch ‘No Way Up,’ but that’s not such a bad thing. It is an interesting premise and it provides effective jump scares. I just wish it had included some humor.

NO WAY UP Trailer (2024) Survival, Shark Movie
NO WAY UP Trailer (2024) Survival, Shark Movie / ONE Media +

I’m a huge fan of the Sharknado series so when I heard about No Way Up, I was like, ‘hell yeah!’

“Snakes on a Plane” probably encapsulates my absolute nightmare, all in one. The only way to get through such a movie is a complete suspension of disbelief, which is all well and good. That’s part of the joy of being entertained by such disaster movies. What also works for No Way Up is less reliance on CGI or green screen. The descent down into the water, once the catastrophic plane malfunction happens, is pretty scary and one of the intense highlights of the film. Once they are down in the depths of the ocean in the air-locked cabin, confining the action to this claustrophobic location gives the movie an air of reality.

No Way Up’s weak points center around a few relationships. We also spend a little too much time explaining the main protagonist’s story at the outset. Sophie McIntosh is fine as Ava, portraying the governor’s daughter who is haunted by her mother’s drowning and overprotected by her bodyguard, on her father’s behalf. The bodyguard, Brandon, is played by the always dependable Colm Meaney, who is one of the highlights of the film. Ava’s relationship with Brandon is a strong foundation here. Her relationship with her boyfriend Jed, played by Jeremias Amoore, is mostly forgettable, however. Same with his friend, Kyle (Will Attenborough). Ava is also unsure if she wants to continue with law school, but some of this exposition could have been cut. Really, only the relationship with Colm Meaney and Ava’s fears centering around her mother’s death stick and lend to the horrors yet to come.

What appealed to me in the movie was the strong dynamic between three compelling female characters of varying ages, including Ava, who is complimented by Mardy (the wonderful Phyllis Logan from Downton Abbey, a shining beacon in the film) and her granddaughter, Rosa (Grace Nettle). These three women each play pivotal roles in the survival of the crew and their reliance on each other and strong bond is the true strength of the film. It’s clear that the director, Claudio Fäh, has set this as the heart of No Way Up, and it works in its favor.

Another highlight is the plane accident itself. When Ava notices that the plane doesn’t seem to be very populated, despite their Caribbean destination, it’s explained that it’s an older model. Once birds fly into the engine, the plane ignites and its rapid descent ensues, with the damaged plane plummeting underwater and ultimately landing on a slope deep in the ocean. The chaotic breaking apart of the plane and descent into underwater madness is pretty harrowing and deftly executed. Perhaps it wouldn’t quite happen like that in reality, but really, who cares? It’s pretty scary and suspension of disbelief is just fine here since it’s so well done.

What I also appreciated was the conception of the sharks. They were operated by divers and do not come across as particularly fake. And they offer some effective jump scares. The gore is also rendered in a realistic fashion that lends to the serious nature of the film.

The weak points probably lie in the very seriousness of the premise itself. There are some critical liberties in the rescue efforts themselves. There are only two divers sent into very dangerous waters, deep into the ocean. What happens to them opens up the possibilities for escape for the remaining survivors. I also found myself questioning the lack of backup support for just such a rescue. Why would there only be one chopper looking for them in descending darkness? This is the governor’s daughter, after all! All of that is tethered in the seriousness of the script, which also gets bogged down at times as the movie goes on. Perhaps if there had been moments of levity or a little humor, it would have helped some of the more implausible elements be accepted more readily.

But then again, I couldn’t really keep my eyes off the screen. I found the traumatic moments during the crew’s attempts to escape engaging and somewhat thrilling. Phyllis Logan and Colm Meaney were the strength of the No Way Up, with Logan chewing up the scenery in one particular closeup. They elevated the film. I always admire when great actors still strive for their best no matter what the material (Rufus Sewell’s work in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is another prime example).

No Way Up is currently in theaters.

Next. Sundance 2024: Skywalkers documentary saves the best for last. Sundance 2024: Skywalkers documentary saves the best for last . dark