Is the movie ‘Under Paris’ based on a true story?
(Credit: Netflix)

Films

Is the movie 'Under Paris' based on a true story?

Shark movies are nothing new for Netflix. But what separates the toothy sea creature who’s made new release Under Paris a top-ten hit in several countries is the sympathetic portrayal she gets in this French-language horror flick.

Other shark-attack titles like the profoundly ridiculous Deep Fear and the second-rate Jason Statham-led Meg saga don’t bother with such nuances, engendering fear and hatred towards their fishy antagonists from start to finish. What’s more, as Meg 2 attempts to do to a lesser extent, Under Paris presents the advent of a shark attack in an unusual location from an environmentalist angle.

This angle is reflective of a global reality in which climate change is contributing to a year-on-year rise in attacks by sharks on humans, according to Time magazine and various scientific journals. So does the story of Under Paris reflect reality, too?

It follows the work of a marine biologist and an environmental scientist who tracked a gigantic shortfin mako shark they call Lilith. The shark was found by researchers in a gigantic area of garbage in the Pacific Ocean before it killed four of them and almost took out the film’s protagonist, Sophia (played by Bérénice Bejo).

Some years later, the shark is tracked down halfway up the River Seine, just when Paris is about to hold a large-scale triathlon event in preparation for the 2024 Olympic Games. No doubt Lilith got sick of hanging around sea garbage and went to find some river rubbish instead.

In classic disaster-movie fashion, Sophia and her fellow hero, Parisian police diver Adil, survive while everyone around them is graphically and ferociously maimed to death (and possibly eaten) by the environmentally unbalanced Lilith. The film ends with a stupendous scene in which a giant tsunami engulfs the French capital, caused by a bomb deployed in an attempt to blow up the shark being detonated by mistake.

So how much of this is true?

In short, none of it. Let’s hope it stays that way for the upcoming Paris Olympics. Parisians caught unaware of the movie will likely have nightmares about sharks until the event is over.

Except that unfortunately there is indeed a giant garbage gyre in the Pacific Ocean known as the Great Pacific garbage patch, which likely weights a staggering 150,000 tonnes. And this sea pollution is certainly forcing all species of shark, including mako sharks, closer to areas of water where they are more likely to come into contact with humans.

However, mako sharks, in particular, are generally shy creatures who would never head towards a large crowd of swimmers and attack them unless they were directly forced in that direction. Any real Lilith would be positively harmless in comparison to her movie-star counterpart.