47 Meters Down 2017
Young sisters Kate and Lisa and travel to Mexico for a vacation filled with sun, fun and adventure. Lisa needs some extra persuasion when Kate suggests that they go diving in shark-infested waters. Safe in their protective cage, the thrill-seeking siblings come face to face with a group of majestic great whites. Their worst fears soon become a reality when the cage breaks away from their boat, sending them plummeting to the ocean floor with a dwindling supply of oxygen.
June 16, 2017
Johannes Roberts and Ernest Riera
Mandy Moore, Claire Holt, Matthew Modine
By: Monte Light
47 Meters Down, starring Claire Holt and Mandy Moore of This is Us fame, is a pedestrian shark attack thriller. It was written and directed by Johannes Roberts, (The Other Side of the Door), who assumes modern audiences have the collective intelligence of tubeworms. But to be fair, it’s not all bad. Mediocre, yes. But possessing some moments of genuine frisson.
Moore and Holt play sisters Lisa and Kate, who are vacationing together in Mexico. Lisa is going through a tough breakup, and she confides to Kate that her boyfriend left her because he thought she was boring. So sister Kate encourages Lisa to do something daring and reckless before their trip is over. Believe me, director Roberts drives the irony home with all the finesse of a crotch kick. Tubeworms, people. That’s what he thinks of us.
Official Synopsis: Young sisters Kate and Lisa and travel to Mexico for a vacation filled with sun, fun and adventure. Lisa needs some extra persuasion when Kate suggests that they go diving in shark-infested waters. Safe in their protective cage, the thrill-seeking siblings come face to face with a group of majestic great whites. Their worst fears soon become a reality when the cage breaks away from their boat, sending them plummeting to the ocean floor with a dwindling supply of oxygen.
The ladies meet two handsome men, who offer them an opportunity to get up close and personal with sharks. “It’s like going to the zoo,” one of them says. “Only you’re the one in the cage.” Kate encourages Lisa to take the risk, because of the hurtful thing Lisa’s boyfriend said to her about being boring. Lisa begrudgingly agrees. Yes, this woman will ultimately endanger her life, trapped by killer fish at the bottom of the ocean, because she wanted to make her ex jealous. As personal vendettas go, that one ranks well below revenge porn. Once on board, they meet Captain Taylor, played by an amiable if disinterested Matthew Modine. He acts shifty, his boat is old, and his diving cage is rusty. What could possibly go wrong?
On a technical level, 47 Meters Down is proficient enough. Apparently, the undersea sequences, which make up about ninety percent of the film, were shot in an actual underwater studio. Both actresses learned the delicate art of scuba diving. The CGI sharks look pretty believable, (except for the close-ups). No one can say the talent’s heart wasn’t in the right place. But it’s all in service to a base, workmanlike approach to horror. The first shark attack is an “in your face” jumpscare, obviously patented for cheap 3D thrills. Most of the “run and hide” moments are constructed exactly like a teen slasher film from the eighties, only in a completely ludicrous environment for such a thing to take place. Steven Spielberg isn’t rolling in his grave, thankfully, but I’m sure he’s rolling his eyes somewhere.
Mandy Moore is a solid actress when given strong material. You can see her diligently throwing everything and the kitchen sink into her performance. Thankfully, Moore isn’t as wooden as her costar Holt, who never really sells the sisterly love. But there are two needling problems that bring her down. One: Moore’s voice never matches the hysteria of her physicality. Because of this, you never quite believe Lisa’s desperation. Two: the script writes Lisa as an idiot at every turn. The latter isn’t Moore’s fault, but she’s also incapable of compensating. An actor with more charisma could have done it swimmingly, (pun very much intended).
There are flashes of brilliance, like gossamers of algae lost in a tidal wave. For one, the use of subjective camera angles, darting in and out of Lisa’s scuba mask, as she first realizes she is trapped at the bottom of the ocean, beautifully conveys the claustrophobia of such an emotional moment. A simple but effective choice, similar to Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity (2013). In many ways, 47 Meters Down would’ve worked better without the cheap shark attacks. The most effective moments of horror happen without them: characters having to swim into murky nothingness to re-establish radio contact, the fear of losing your bearings underwater, the threat of depleting oxygen reserves, a possible death from nitrogen bubbles forming in the brain. Those bits genuinely put your heart in your throat. The shark bits just make you think of Sharknado (2013).
The most egregious flaw is the dialogue. Mundane lines are used far too often to spell out everything you see on screen as if director Roberts doesn’t trust his own visuals. Lisa looks at her oxygen gage, we see the number going down, but the character insists on announcing it every single time. I’m sorry, but it’s not that hard to follow. At one point, Lisa comes upon a harpoon gun fortuitously, (don’t ask). “A harpoon gun!” she squeals, using up that precious air to state the bloody obvious. You know, film is a visual language. Making amateurish scenes like that, Johannes Roberts makes a strong case for the devolution of the medium. The Weinstein Brothers passed 47 Meters Down to a smaller distribution house, Freestyle Releasing. They probably smelled blood in the water, (pun very much intended).
47 Meters Down will arrive on 2,500 screens on June 16, 2017. There’s a third act twist that I won’t spoil, but any horror aficionado will see it coming from a mile away. If you’re looking for a few cheap thrills, I suppose you won’t be disappointed. It’s just not worth dragging along your chum, (pun completely unintentional).