47 Meters Down Review
Starring Mandy Moore, Claire Holt, Matthew Modine, Chris Johnson, Yani Gellman, Santiago Segura
Written by Johannes Roberts and Ernest Riera
Directed by Johannes Roberts
Director of photography Mark Silk
In an attempt to prove to her ex-boyfriend that she’s adventurous, Lisa – played by This Is Us actress Mandy Moore – along with her sister Kate – Claire Holt – take a trip to Mexico. After meeting two locals, Javier and Louis (Johnson, Gellman) they get persuaded to swim with sharks in a shoddy cage on a rickety boat, captained by dodgy older gentleman. Both sisters psych each other up and go through with their daring adventure.
That’s the setup to 47 Meters Down, the latest shark movie after last year’s The Shallows. 47 Meters Down isn’t as good as The Shallows but it does provide enough suspense and jump scares to still be considered entertaining. There isn’t a lot going on but works well as a B-movie with thrills and scares to keep you on the edge of your seat for just under 90 minutes.
Chumming the Waters
Lisa wants to be adventurous but considers herself risk averse and plays everything safe. Her sister Kate is quite the opposite, traveling the world, taking risks, and has a series of men who just want to be with her. Seeing as they’re both in Mexico, they take it upon themselves to help Lisa break out of her shell and do something…crazy. Like, say, getting into a rusty cage and swimming with sharks.
Following the guys they just met the night before, they head off to a boat in the middle of the ocean, captained by bearded American named only Taylor, played by Matthew Modine. The boat looks to be on its last legs, so to speak, looking weathered and run down. A sure sign something might go wrong. In fact, boring Lisa feels it in her gut that something will go wrong, but is ultimately convinced by her sister to take the plunge and prove to her boyfriend she’s not so boring.
At first, swimming with sharks is thrilling. Sharks as large as 20 feet rush by them, eating the chum thrown by the men in the boat above. Everything goes smoothly until the winch snaps and sends the cage 47 meters below the surface. It’s there when Lisa and Kate must fight to stay alive long enough for help to arrive.
Thalassophobia In Nature
47 Meters Down is tense, slowly building tension pretty early on in the film with slow, lingering shots in the water. We spend the majority of the movie in the darkness of water. Most of the film feels dark and cold, Mark Silk capturing the depth and anxiety of being submerged. Those with thalassophobia need not watch this film without padding their sweaty brow every so often. Taking inspiration from horror films, Roberts places both Lisa and Kate square center frame with the darkness of the ocean water nearly suffocating them.
Roberts utilizes jump scares but don’t overuse them like so many other generic horror films. Like The Shallows, 47 Meters Down relies more on building tension, amping the danger before scaring the audience with glimpses of sharks nearly chewing someone’s arm or leg. While some jump scares could be telegraphed, others can’t and induce dread in the audience.
Short On Plot, Short On Believable Dialog
What doesn’t work is the dialog. Lisa’s lines about wanting to prove her boyfriend wrong sound generic and forced. The writing isn’t the films strongest aspect and nearly kills any momentum with cringe-inducing delivery by Mandy Moore. Though her performance on This Is Us garnered a lot of praise, she seems to take a step backward with her performance here.
At a brisk 90 minutes, it seems to spend one-fourth of the film setting up the premise of the film. Or, at least it seemed that way. In hindsight, 47 Meters might have taken about fifteen minutes to get the plot of the film rolling but in the moment, it felt twice as long.
I really didn’t care much for Lisa’s backstory but Holt and Moore shared a chemistry that felt sisterly. I don’t think the film would have worked if neither actress shared a connection with one another.
My final issue is the lesson learned in the film. It might be unfair to compare, but The Shallows had Blake Lively overcome adversity in the physical representation of a shark. There isn’t much here in terms thematic elements. Yes, Lisa wanted to be braver but what does that mean for her at the end of the story? She’s supposed to go through a change after a traumatic event but the events in the film seem to reassure her stance.
Not Quite Jaws But Good, Nonetheless
Once we get in the water the film becomes a thrill ride. It’s quite brutal with its depiction of shark attacks showing the deep gashes and wounds of a shark bite. I even winced at an eye-gouging scene.
47 Meters Down is an adequate B-movie that will keep you on the edge of your seat and keep you on your toes through to the very end.