by Sherry Lipp
The Lowdown: Threadbare story, but enough underwater tension and shark thrills to make it an easy and fairly entertaining watch.
The premise of 47 Meters Down is simple. Two girls go into a shark cage to get a close up look at the fearsome sea creatures. Things go wrong and the cage, with the girls in it, winds up at the bottom of the ocean – 47 meters down (that’s 154 feet for those of us in the U.S.). Trapped, running out of air, and surrounded by sharks, their objective is to get out of the water. 47 Meters Down offers some pretty decent shark thrills and effectively amps up the tension, but unimaginative storytelling and lack of interesting characters drag the film down.
Lisa (Mandy Moore) and her sister Kate (Claire Holt) are vacationing in Mexico. Lisa is fretting because her boyfriend has recently broken up with because she’s boring. Kate, on the other hand, has spent her young adulthood traveling the world and living a life of excitement. That’s about as much as we ever get to know these characters. One is more conservative in her actions and the other more reckless. Predictably Lisa is apprehensive when presented with the opportunity to go in the shark cage, but not wanting to be the boring girl her former boyfriend thinks she is, she decides to go for it.
The girls have met some local guys who are in good with Captain Taylor (Matthew Modine) who’ll take them out to view sharks for only $100.00 each. It’s too good of a bargain to pass up so out they go despite a rickety boat and rusty cage. It’s obvious this isn’t a good idea, but we just want to get to the sharks, so it’s easy to go with it. Once disaster happens there are only two options, get out of the water or die.
I liked the set up of the impossible situation the girls were in. Despite the open sea, the confinement of the cage and the scuba gear gave the film a tense, claustrophobic feeling. There are all kinds of obvious problems in being trapped under water, the most obvious being the lack of air. They will run out if they don’t get to the surface. Unfortunately for them the waters are swimming with sharks due to the chumming they were doing to attract them in the first place.
When there were sharks the film was exciting. When the sharks weren’t around it wasn’t. If only they could have written some interesting dialogue for Lisa and Kate to say. If only Lisa’s relationship with her boyfriend Stuart meant something. If only Modine’s Captain Taylor was more than just a disembodied voice coming through their earphones. Listening to the rattle off how many bars of air they had left or how scared they were became annoying and tedious to listen to. I kept waiting for some kind of twist in their situation, but it was all handled a little too seriously.
There is a twist of sorts, but it comes out of necessity to finish the story rather than adds real interest. While I did enjoy the constant threat of shark attack and the eerie murkiness of their underwater predicament, I wish the filmmakers had had a little more fun with the concept. Ideas were introduced, but the lack of follow-through made it all feel a little meaningless. Still, if you’re just looking for some cool shark scenes, there is something to enjoy about 47 Meters Down.
47 Meters Down Images: Entertainment Studios