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Cage Goes In The Water, Shark’s In The Water, Cage Falls ‘47 Meters Down’ (Movie Review)

The level or ridiculousness involved in killer shark movies in a post-Jaws world must be somewhat close to the level of ridiculousness with regular people who actually put themselves in situations where they are very close to sharks. Accepting the premise of a killer shark movie generally means looking past weak characterization and logic gaps, favoring the tension, thrills and filmmaking on display. 47 Meters Down manages to get close to working thanks to solid scenes of tension that stem from two people stuck at the bottom of the ocean, with a dark void surrounding them. That said, bracing for scares only goes so far when a film is committed to keeping its characters this shallow while in the deep.

A bit of plot: Mandy Moore and Claire Holt star as Lisa and Kate, sisters vacationing in Mexico. Lisa has just been dumped by her boyfriend for being too boring, so she reluctantly goes along with Kate’s wish to hang out with some local boys and go cage diving with sharks. Captain Taylor (Matthew Modine) assures the ladies that everything will be fine, but once inside the cage and underwater the hoist break, sending them to the seafloor. With only so much air supply and sharks with nothing but a taste for American blood, the sisters will have to do what they can to survive.

Some issues with the film can be remedied with considerations for circumstances outside of the film itself. 47 Meters Down was originally intended to go straight to VOD. Some early reactions, along with most likely the success of last year’s The Shallows and newfound buzz surrounding Moore’s performance on the TV series This Is Us, led to pushing 47 Meters Down up onto movie screens. It’s worth noting, as the film may not look cheap, but there’s an issue with quality concerning the dialogue and basic rhythms of a film such as this.

Basically, it can be forgivable to see a thriller such as this stumble on over-the-top moments and certain acting choices, as the intent wasn’t originally to produce a major theatrical release. Perhaps that is giving too much credit to the film though because I am supposed to be judging the film for itself. With that in mind, there are some major highlights that rely on inherent tension coming out of the situation. There are also a number of really bad moments.

The setup is borderline ludicrous, but thankfully only takes a few minutes to get through. As mentioned, the film makes us very aware that Lisa was dumped by her boyfriend, Stewart. This is a name constantly mentioned (almost as much as the word “sharks”), but it is particularly disheartening for Kate to basically push Lisa into this whole cage diving adventure by using Stewart’s position against her. It may be a little thing, but since that idea informs the rest of the movie, it really sticks out. The way characters call back to previously explained ideas, in general, really bogs the movie down.

Once 47 Meters Down settles the audience in for undersea terror, information that could be made clear visually is constantly stated out loud. We get constant verbal reminders of how to handle the air supply situation and a repeated explanation of what “the bends” will do to you. Moore and Holt (and their Scuba doubles) are doing their best relay their sense of fear on screen, but the dialogue they share (all re-recorded, later on, the only way this makes sense) provides the film with an unintentional sense of humor.

Regarding what is effective, well, it’s the shark action. There’s actually not much of it, with the film awkwardly staging tense scenes by inconsistently delivering on the appearance of actual sharks, yet making sure Tomandandy’s score is always present and threatening. However, the underwater photography combined with whatever practical/computer-generated effects utilized to present these aquatic beasts is effective in a visceral way. It’s not all that clever about how to deliver on shark horror, but certain scenes are pretty effective, including one particular reveal likely used as a trailer shot.

At 80 minutes, 47 Meters Down is as streamlined as possible. There are a number of silly moments involving the choices made by characters as far as how to deal with various scenarios. That said, it’s engaging and effectively scary when it needs to be. I’m not quite sure the end is as successful as writer/director Johannes Roberts thinks it is, but I also can’t speak to whether it’s just too predictable or my mind was too attuned to the limited number of possibilities. Then again, the film’s main flaw was over-explaining key points. Whatever the case, as far as ridiculous killer shark movies go, 47 Meters Down didn’t have me worried about going back in the water, but it was a decently thrilling look into the deep blue sea.

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Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Video Game Player, Comic Book Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

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