At 47 meters down, how many thumbs will go up?
Two sisters, Lisa and Kate (played by Mandy Moore and Claire Holt, respectively), are vacationing in Mexico. One day, they are invited by a pair of locals to go diving for sharks. Lisa, having recently broken up with her boyfriend, is hesitant to go diving, but is coaxed by Kate to come along. While being lowered down into the water, the winch above the surface breaks and the cage plummets to the bottom with the sisters trapped inside.
They are stuck at the titular 47 meters down, which is populated by man-eating sharks. Since the air in their tanks dropped immensely, if they try to swim back up, they would develop air embolisms in their blood, killing them. With their cage to protect them, and a low range of radio communication with the boat above, Lisa and Kate, must wait for help to arrive while trying to stay alive.
It is difficult to discuss 47 Meters Down without making a direct comparison to last year’s The Shallows, another shark film involving a female protagonist who uses ingenuity to survive. One would think that this film was made solely to replicate the surprise success of The Shallows, even copying that film’s cinematography and title font in the opening credits. However, to be fair, these films are only similar at face value. Unlike Blake Lively, who was trapped on an island above water, Moore and Holt’s characters are trapped beneath the sea with limited oxygen—a significantly more urgent situation. But how does 47 Meters Down hold up on its own?
In terms of execution, 47 Meters Down is an odd film. It contains the elements of a decent survival film, but the film’s pace is distractingly uneven. We barely get introduced to these characters when major dramatic scenes are thrown at us with no proper transitions. For example, the film’s first scene of the sisters playing in the pool is immediately followed by an emotionally heavy conversation between the two. This again happens after they have been trapped in the cage for less than a few minutes. While dramatic moments are welcome in a shark movie, these seem to come out of nowhere too early and leave us scratching our heads.
Another element that seems odd is the group of men that the sisters go diving with. At moments, Lisa speculates that the men might be shady people looking to abduct them. This may be an attempt by director Johannes Roberts to add more suspense, or maybe he is trying to cash in on this summer’s “Latin America abduction” niche started by Snatched. Either way, this plot device has no real payoff, at least in the way it is presented.
With that being said, there are some moments of good suspense in this film, and they can be attributed to the setup. Since we don’t see exactly how fast the sisters’ air is draining, we don’t know how much longer each has to live, and I have to admit, it is compelling to watch. The most suspenseful scenes in the film involve the leads swimming in open water while keeping an eye out for sharks, and Roberts, to his credit, is good with keeping the camera lingering on these scenes. When the sharks do appear, however, their CGI appearance takes the scare factor away.
Once again, as with the majority of modern movies, the end has a twist, but this twist’s impact is lessened by the film’s other major flaw—the dialogue. Throughout the film, characters are constantly talking, even in scenes where dialogue is not required. The dialogue itself is merely exposition, whether about the backstory of Lisa and Kate, or the safety tips regarding scuba diving, which become important to their survival, and gets to ludicris levels.
Going back to the opening credits for a moment, Roberts’ full name appears above the title, even though his writer/director credits have appeared seconds before. It is almost as he wants this to be the film he’ll be remembered for. Though this film is better than his previous effort, The Other Side of the Door, it is not quite good enough to warrant this name placing. Hopefully he doesn’t go down the same egomaniacal path as Tyler Perry.
In the end, 47 Meters Down is watchable. Even though it has more of a suspenseful setup than The Shallows, it doesn’t have a stable enough tone to be the summer thrill ride it wants to be. Though Moore and Holt do their best with the material, and Roberts shows some talent in directing suspense, the film is about as mundane as its title suggests. As far as shark movies go, it’s not Jaws, but at least it’s not Jaws: The Revenge.