47 Meters Down Terror Time

Movie Review: ’47 Meters Down’ Floats Too

47 Meters Down

Give me a good shark movie, and I’ll automatically hand over a bill for therapy.

Ever since Jaws (the book and the film), I’ve had quite an obsession and (shall we say) rational fear of the ocean’s top predators.

Movies like Deep Blue Sea, Open Water and the absolute terror-triumph that is The Reef –all make me curl up into a ball with fear of my legs being sliced off by razor-sharp teeth –regardless of how good or bad the film may be.

47 Meters Down lands somewhere middle-ground. It presses all the right buttons shark-wise, but it’s certainly nothing to throw oodles of chum-laden praise upon either.

Sisters Kate and Lisa (Claire Holt and Mandy Moore; respectively) are on a vacation in sunny Mexico. In light of Lisa’s recent break-up, they meet up with two surfer dudes, who convince them to take a trip into the ocean for some shark-cage diving. Captain Taylor (Stranger Things’ Matthew Modine) takes the group out onto the open water. When the 20-foot Great Whites begin to circle the boat, the two surfer dudes get into the cage and all is well. When it’s the sisters’ turn to get in – there is a malfunction and the cage is sent spiraling to the ocean floor (oh, let’s say about 47 meters down). Lisa and Kate must battle their diminishing oxygen supply and the curious (and hungry) sharks swimming nearby… somewhere in the murky water.

I thought both of the lead actresses did well with the material provided. I never doubted their shrill reactions to the horrors around them, but with so little exposition – it’s not as if we were completely entrenched in their survival. The chemistry was good enough to make us care – but with a movie like this – you sort of want to see the sharks doing their thing –even when you don’t… if that makes any sense.

I’d say Moore gets a bit of a leg up – considering her strong breakdown/admission moment early on (on land) and the final moments of the film, while she’s underwater. As a duo, they have good chemistry and their sisterhood felt genuine.

But if you compare the lead performance from Blake Lively in last year’s superior shark film, The Shallows – both performances here fall short. Matthew Modine’s presence in the film is something of a mystery. I would assume most films would welcome another name actor into the mix, and that’s fine. But the role of Captain Taylor is so 2-dimensional and basically useless to the overall story, that anyone could have taken on the role.

It’s sort of an odd thing to say – in light of the fact that I wanted a bit more character history and necessary attempts to build-up some genuine character love (thus making all of the horror that much richer) – but I was pushing for the first 15 minutes of the film to “move it along”. Let’s get to the sharks, already. So perhaps this need to get to the nitty -gritty could have been achieved by adding in character
traits later on in the film.

I’m not quite sure how this could have been accomplished to my ultimate satisfaction, but I’m the one asking for something, not the one problem-solving, right?

The shark effects are pretty good for the most part. I was most impressed with their first appearance underwater, as they silently glide by the cage. It looks quite authentic. A few later appearances fall into the CGI-territory of the aforementioned Deep Blue Sea (i.e. not on the money).

The film does a nice job of building suspense. I found it particularly cool that we never saw the surfer dudes’ interactions with the sharks on their cage-dive, thus further amping up the tension for when the sisters finally go under. I love seeing smart choices like that from the filmmakers.

There are a bevy of effective “boo” moments and yes, I was covering my eyes with my hands at some points – at one jump scare, I actually bumped my glasses off of my face.

I did find myself cringing at several of the more gruesome moments – namely when you see how Lisa addresses her trapped leg. Ugh.

The ending is surprisingly disturbing – going to a place I would not have expected for a piece I consider a more mainstream audience-pleaser. It’s nicely (but not totally subtly) established, so it’s not a surprise when it comes up. But I’m not sure the additional moments before the credits roll – negated the power of the “disturbing” part, helped it along – or had no effect at all. Jury’s still out on that.

47 Meters Down is able to provide a few “laugh at yourself in the safety of your own home” shocks, and is overall executed pretty well technically, but it never feels like it goes deep enough (forgive me for that) into the characters to totally engage the viewer. As far as character development and sympathy and just plain hutzpah – I’ll give it a 20 meters down – maximum.

Do I need a visit to the therapist, where I’ll try some immersion therapy in a deep-sea shark cage of my own? Probably not. But the film is a good time when you have 90 minutes to kill. But a must-see? Nah. Check out The Reef or The Shallows first.
A sequel has already been announced, appropriately titled 48 Meters Down – from the original’s writer/director Johannes Roberts.

The film is now available on various VOD outlets, as well as DVD and Bluray.

3.5 stars out of a total 5.

MICHAEL KLUG
SCREENWRITER & ACTOR

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