Which 2021 Thrillers are worth your time?


Underwater, Celebrity Tadka, Fair use

Underwater is one the newest thrillers of 2021.

Recently subscribers to streaming platforms have seen a spike in newly released thrillers, many featuring well-known actors and actresses.

Underwater: predictable blockbuster, but underwater

The first film I dove into is William Eubank’s Underwater, starring Kristen Stewart and available on HBO and Prime Video. Set in the Mariana Trench, the science-fiction story follows a small group of deep-sea drillers who find themselves in hot water after disturbing a mysterious sea creature.

The film is great for action-lovers and fans of Kristen Stewart; the intensity is definitely there––with the action starting within the first few minutes of the film––although nothing new or exciting compared to every other modern action movie (think Alien rip-off). Stewart and her cast-mates do an excellent job acting; it doesn’t come off cheesy or forced. The cinematography is phenomenal as well, with unique imagery and CGI that leaves viewers feeling fully immersed in the experience.

Despite all this, the film is predictable with few unexpected happenings; it’s your classic, boring blockbuster. The message of the film is also a bit confusing; at one point characters discuss how the earth is ‘fighting back,’ and how they’re ‘not meant to be there,’ but then proceed to unapologetically blow stuff up. Overall, I wouldn’t tell someone not to watch it, but there are certainly other films to better fill a night.

Synchronic: missed potential and overqualified cast

Netflix’s Synchronic offers a unique perspective on designer drugs and their unforeseen consequences: in this case, time travel. The unique storyline alone makes this film starring Anthony Mackie and Jamie Dornan worth watching.

Directors Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead do a great job at introducing the premise of the film with a haunting score and visuals. Beyond this, however, I was disappointed by the lack of character development and follow-up on what could have been more in-depth and engaging storylines; instead, at times the movie seemed to drag on or include pointless scenes. Even the main event of the movie––trying to find an individual lost in time––was something that I didn’t care about as a viewer, thanks to the lack of lead-up and connection to the characters.

Despite the story’s underwhelming unfolding, the sacrifice and determination displayed by Mackie’s character convey an important message to viewers and will stick in your mind for days after the watch.

Things Heard & Seen: not worth hearing or seeing

Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini directed Netflix’s Things Heard and Seen, which includes spiritual themes of good versus bad and human nature. Starring Amanda Seyfried, whose acting was, of course, exceptional, the film follows a married couple who move into a new house but quickly fall victim to history repeating itself.

This film is scattered with unnecessary additions––including characters, scenes, and behaviors––some of which even leave frustrating plot holes. The characters themselves are unrealistic and are clearly shaped to fit their roles in the movie, rather than fighting back or figuring out the plot against them.

However, I like that the film takes the viewer for a ride with the characters rather than letting the viewer be omniscient, tying together strings of the plot only at the very end. I wouldn’t at all say this film is a horror movie––it’s certainly a thriller, but a slow burn, with the pace picking up in the later half.

If the plot were simplified and made less busy, I think Things Heard and Seen could have been a lot more engaging, but in the end it was only the starring role of overqualified Seyfried that saved the film from being a total miss.

Woman in the Window: a bad movie gets worse with every minute

Joe Wright’s Woman in the Window––adapted from A.J. Finn’s novel––is definitely the worst movie I’ve seen in a while. Marketed as a slow-burn psychological thriller, Amy Adams plays a paranoid woman with agoraphobia (the fear to leave one’s house) who sees her neighbor murdered and attempts to solve the case.

The dialogue is exceptionally cheesy and painful to listen to––to a point where I had to turn off the film because of the unrealistic character interactions and monologues. It felt really theater-y at times, and Adams’ performance was way too dramatic––it was embarrassingly ridiculous.

The film could have been salvaged if it focused more on the PTSD, delirium, and denial of Adams’ character experiences, and how she deals with it by focusing so much on her neighbors. Disappointingly, Wright chose to fall back on violence (by packing the last half hour with action and gore scenes that are completely out of place with the rest of the film) and lazy plot twists that cheapen the movie and don’t make sense. To me, this shows a lack of skill from the director and writer; they didn’t have the ability to engage the audience except with the help of typical, crude fight scenes and a ‘blah’ traumatic experience (I tend to cry easily during even semi-emotional scenes, but this one had me absolutely stone-faced).

What could’ve been a really cool ‘it’s all in your head’ moment––where the viewer agrees with the protagonist but doesn’t notice her delusion until it’s revealed at the end and the weirdness makes sense––ends up to be another gaslighted character who was right all along (this is hardly a spoiler, since it’s so predictable. Hopefully it’ll dissuade you from watching.) Talk about boring.
Overall: Don’t watch it. Please, spare yourself.