Two sisters find themselves trapped in a cage at the bottom of the ocean in Johannes Roberts’ shark-infested thriller.
Just when you thought it was once again safe to go into the water comes 47 Meters Down, the latest big-screen shark thriller that will make you want to curl up into a fetal position on the beach. Last summer’s surprise hit The Shallows proved that, despite the seemingly monthly arrival of “Shark Week” on the Discovery Channel, moviegoers’ appetite for the fearsome creatures remains unabated. Johannes Roberts’ effective thriller doubles down on its recent predecessor by placing not one but two attractive women in aquatic jeopardy.
The central characters are Lisa (Mandy Moore, whose career has gotten a boost thanks to the hit TV series This is Us) and Kate (Claire Holt, The Vampire Diaries), sisters vacationing together in Mexico. It turns out that Kate was a last-minute substitute for Lisa’s boyfriend, who dumped her just before the trip because he found her too boring. When the two women meet a pair of hunky locals who invite them to go shark-cage diving, Lisa initially resists. But Kate points out that the adventure is just the thing to prove to Lisa’s ex that she’s exciting after all. “Think of the photos!” Kate urges her terrified sister.
Lisa has good reason to be scared. The boat skippered by the affable Captain Taylor (Matthew Modine) resembles a bucket of bolts and the rusty cage in which they’ll be dropped into the water looks like it’s held together with duct tape. But they’re only descending five meters and, despite the operation’s seemingly ramshackle nature, the diving equipment, including full-face masks equipped with radio communication, looks state-of-the-art.
It isn’t hard to guess what happens next. The cable snaps, sending the cage to the bottom of the ocean floor even as great white sharks, attracted by the chum that had been generously ladled into the water, begin showing up in abundance. The women’s air is quickly running out, but if they try to make a break for it they run the risk of either getting eaten or dying from the bends if they rise to the surface too quickly. They’re only able to communicate with the captain by briefly leaving the cage and ascending a few feet. When the dangers of nitrogen narcosis are added to the mix, it almost seems like overkill.
The ingeniously simple scenario concocted by director Roberts and his co-screenwriter Ernest Riera (they previously collaborated on the horror film The Other Side of the Door) provides the opportunity for genuine tension abetted by a series of jump scares that are no less effective for being predictable. And while the underwater setting inevitably means that the visuals are often murky and the sound unintelligible, the claustrophobic environment is conveyed in proficiently spooky fashion.
Admittedly, the film’s dialogue and characterizations are not its strong suit, as evidenced by such moments as when Lisa and Kate take the opportunity to work out some sibling issues during their ordeal. And the endless series of near misses by the ravenous sharks certainly qualifies them as the most inept predators on the planet.
But on its own B-movie terms 47 Meters Down works just fine, not wearing out its welcome thanks to its quick set-up, rapid pacing and brief running time. The CGI-rendered sharks are surprisingly convincing, and Holt and Moore do an excellent job of looking terrified throughout. And the surprise twist at the conclusion, while not exactly convincing, provides a suitably nasty jolt.
Production: Tea Shop & Film Company
Distributor: Entertainment Studios Motion Pictures
Cast: Claire Holt, Mandy Moore, Chris Johnson, Yani Gellman, Santiago Segura, Matthew Modine
Director: Johannes Roberts
Screenwriters: Johannes Roberts, Ernest Riera
Producers: Mark Lane, James Harris
Executive producers: Bob Weinstein, Harvey Weinstein, Wayne Marc Godfrey, Robert Jones, Will Clarke, Andy Mayson, Mike Runagall, Iain Abrahams, Simon Lewis, Christophe Lannic, Byron Allen, Carolyn Folks, Jennifer Lucas, Mark DeVitre, Chris Charalambous, Mark Borde
Director of photography: Mark Silk
Production designer: David Bryan
Editor: Martin Brinkler
Costume designer: Eleanor Baker
Casting: Colin Jones
Rated PG-13, 89 minutes