‘No Way Up’ Review: Though It Needs More Bite, a Good Thriller Nevertheless

No Way Up is a survival thriller with a fun, shark-filled premise. Read on for our thoughts on why it is a good choice for fans of sharks, planes, and being trapped underwater.

Sophie McIntosh in No Way Up (2024)
Sophie McIntosh stars in No Way Up (2024).

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The shark attack movie is one of the most expansive subgenres of film. It seems that every single month there are new entries added to the ever-growing catalog of shark movies in existence. A few are great, many are good, and lots are just kind of there, floating around without much interest or originality.

Released on VOD in the United States on February 16th, 2024, No Way Up is somewhere in the middle of the shiver of shark movies. It is essentially a mashup of other disaster/survival/animal-attack movies. It’s like 47 Meters Down (2017) meets Snakes on a Plane (2006), but the snakes are sharks. Despite being unbelievable in many ways, No Way Up is still a modestly entertaining thriller thanks to its ridiculous setting.

What is No Way Up About?

Ava swims down the aisle of a partially flooded airplane in No Way Up (2024).
The setting in a water-filled airplane is sure to touch on some viewers’ fear of both air and water.

The basic premise of No Way Up is that it’s a survival movie set inside an airplane that is submerged underwater. The plane in question is headed from Los Angeles to Cabo San Lucas when an in-flight disaster rips a giant hole in the side of the craft about midway down the cabin. The aircraft goes down, sinking into the water and precariously settling on the ocean floor at a downward angle. The angle creates a pocket of air in the rear of the plane that allows the few survivors to breathe as they think about what they are going to do. They better think quickly though, because they are running out of air, and the longer they wait the hungrier the sharks circling the downed plane are going to get.

The star of No Way Up is Sophie McIntosh who plays Ava. Ava is the daughter the Governor of California, and she is accompanied on her trip to Cabo by her bodyguard and friend Brandon (Colm Meaney), her boyfriend Jed (Jeremias Amoore), and Jed’s obnoxious best friend Kyle (Will Attenborough). Also along for the ride are flight attendant Danilo (Manuel Pacific), young Rosa (Grace Nettle), and Rosa’s grandmother Mardy aka Nana (Phyllis Logan).

Reviewing No Way Up

Ava swims through the baggage hold of a submerged airplane in No Way Up (2024).
No Way Up looks nice throughout, and the underwater scenes are definitely highlights.

The biggest positive for No Way Up is its setting. In this reviewer’s opinion, underwater horror movies are almost always a lot of fun. Even the bad ones are at least pretty good simply because of the setting. But even if you’re not as into underwater thrillers as me, the setting is still effective. It combines the fear of flying with claustrophobia, thalassophobia (fear of deep water), and galeophobia (fear of sharks). Thankfully, all of those fears are decently effective throughout the movie.

The disaster portion of the movie is really well done. The plane crash is intense and handled wonderfully on-screen with special effects that convey what needs to be conveyed even at the movie’s lower budget. That said, there are times when the effects aren’t as good, and the lack of consistently believable special effects hurts the overall experience. As an example, one of the passengers who doesn’t survive the initial crash is seen underwater, and the body humorously looks like a dummy from a cheap haunted house attraction. It’s a strange decision, especially because another body in the same scene appears to be a real person holding their breath.

A shark swims through a hold in the side of a submerged plane in No Way Up (2024).
The best look at a shark comes very late in the movie.

Some viewers might also consider the sharks to be a bit of a disappointment. What we see of them looks good, but it’s rare that we get to see the sharks very well at all. They are most often seen in quick glimpses in dark, murky water. Attacks are done with fast-paced editing containing split-second, extremely close views of the sharks. Some attacks are also done with people just getting pulled into the water with no shark sighting at all. For some people, this will be a case of “less is more.” Keeping the sharks obscured can help keep the tension up in a “they could be anywhere” kind of way. For others, especially people looking for a fun b-movie experience, not seeing the sharks clearly will be frustrating. It really just depends on what you’re looking for.

If you’re looking for character-based drama, there are some positives in No Way Up. Ava’s friendship with her bodyguard Brandon is interesting and well played between the two actors. Ava’s friends are less fleshed-out, and one of them is so annoying that you’ll want to see him as shark bait at the earliest possible opportunity. As for Rosa and her Nana, their relationship is endearing. Unfortunately, the most interesting character in the movie (and the best actor) is gone far too soon, and the drama among the rest of the survivors never reaches the heights of emotion that it could. Overall the story and characters are mostly good, but far from great.

The cast of No Way Up (2024) stares at something off screen.
Some deaths in No Way Up hit harder than others, but none are particularly heart-wrenching.

And that’s really the overall feeling of No Way Up: mostly good, but not great. Many of the plot points are way too convenient, to the point of unbelievability. For a very minor spoiler example, the completely submerged plane is located by a single helicopter and two divers within just a couple of hours of the crash. Also, the sharks (it could just be one shark, it’s hard to tell) seem like less of a threat in the finale than they should be. Despite that, the ending is still pretty good.

Who Will Enjoy No Way Up?

The survivors in No Way Up (2024) smile as they look out of one of the plan's windows.
Despite some characters not getting completely satisfying stories, the actors all do a nice job in No Way Up.

No Way Up is for fans of underwater movies, survival thrillers, and low-budget shark movies that take themselves seriously. There is none of the camp or cheesiness you see in many of the b-grade shark movies out there. That will be a plus or a minus depending on your tastes.

I enjoyed No Way Up, but the middle part of the movie was less interesting than the beginning and ending. If you focus less on the sharks and more on the underwater survival aspect of the movie, and if you don’t think too hard about the feasibility of what the characters are doing, No Way Up is an entertaining thriller worth a rental.

No Way Up is currently available to rent on VOD sites including Amazon.

Further Reading

Meet The Author

Chris has a degree in film studies at Temple University’s campus in Tokyo, Japan. He is a renowned expert on horror cinema.