Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 29 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for Sequences of Intense Peril, Bloody Images, and brief Strong Language
Directed by: Johannes Roberts
Written by: Johannes Roberts & Ernest Riera
Starring: Mandy Moore, Claire Holt, Chris J. Johnson, Yani Gellman, Santiago Segura & Matthew Modine
Summer and sharks go together like JAWS and an irreparable fear of the ocean. Think about it for a second. Every July, Discovery Channel dominates with “Shark Week” and Syfy Channel further banks on that with an annual SHARKNADO movie. To boot, sharks have always done well at the summer box office. JAWS created the summer blockbuster, 1999’s DEEP BLUE SEA more than doubled its budget, 2003’s OPEN WATER banked with adult audiences, and last year’s THE SHALLOWS was an unexpected hit. I was looking forward to 47 METERS DOWN for a few reasons. The biggest one being its crazy premise, but another being the film’s unusual transition from originally being intended as a video-on-demand release to a nationwide theatrical outing. Turns out, 47 METERS DOWN is a pretty cool flick with enough positive qualities to warrant a recommendation.
After a painful break-up with her boyfriend, Lisa (Mandy Moore) and her sister Kate (Claire Holt) are vacationing in Mexico. Looking to do something adventurous, the sisters decide to take an impromptu shark-diving trip on a rickety old boat. After the sisters see some underwater sights and the cage begins lifting back up, the cage’s rope snaps and the sisters are plunged 47 meters down onto the ocean floor (hence the title of this movie). With a limited supply of air in their tanks and hungry sharks hiding around every corner, the two amateur scuba divers must find a way to reach the surface…as opposed to either suffocating or becoming fish food.
47 METERS DOWN has one hell of a premise. Viewers who are afraid of the ocean and sharks will likely be mortified while watching this film. Though the plot has a flimsy set-up in its opening 10 minutes (which are borderline painful to sit through) and there are clichés, 47 METERS DOWN has gripping sequences of suspense and actually made me jump a few times. Director Johannes Roberts (who’s made more than his fair share of crappy horror flicks) milks this film’s tension for as long as he possibly can. Though we definitely receive jump scares that are accompanied with musical stingers, the minor heart attacks I experienced were earned…because well, there are sharks attempting to make a quick snack out of two divers.
Speaking of which, the two leading performances in this film are mostly subpar. Mandy Moore plays the dorky sister who’s afraid to take risks and then regrets taking a risk for the rest of the film’s running time. She also screams a lot and makes a few bone-headed decisions. Claire Holt isn’t much better as her adrenaline-junkie sister who’s placed in increasingly perilous situations as the plot moves forward. Whereas I was rooting for Blake Lively to make it off the rock in THE SHALLOWS and the three main characters to kill the shark in JAWS, I really didn’t care if Moore or Holt lived or died. The only thing keeping me invested in this film was the beyond intense situation and well-executed scares.
Without spoiling anything, I will bring up a compliment and a complaint that I have with 47 METERS DOWN’s conclusion. This film pulled a fast one on me and I appreciated that until the final two minutes arrived. There’s a nifty twist that slaps the viewer upside the head and I thought the ending was going to be far darker than I originally expected (which would have boosted this film to a “B”). Instead, the script takes a clichéd way out and soils the rather solid twist in a dumb way. I dug most of this ending and then hated the last two minutes of it.
47 METERS DOWN suffers from crappy performances and a few lame decisions (e.g. a flimsy motivator to get the ball rolling), but it makes up for those flaws with effective scares, surprisingly solid effects, and 3/4ths of a really cool ending. The premise is also more than just a shark horror movie, because the two characters constantly have to be wary of running out of oxygen and other scuba-related threats (they can’t ascend too fast or they’ll get nitrogen bubbles in their blood). As a whole, 47 METERS DOWN is entertaining enough to recommend as a fun little scarefest.