47 METERS DOWN

Reviewed by GREG KING

Director: Johannes Roberts

Stars: Mandy Moore, Claire Holt, Matthew Modine, Yani Gellman, Santiago Segura.

Swimming with sharks, again?

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Ever since Jaws hit the big screen in 1975, there have been many other films that have played on our innate fear of the predators of the deep – films like The Reef, Open Water and more recently The Shallows with Blake Lively, which have pitted humans against rapacious killer sharks. And just when you thought it was safe to go back into a cinema along comes 47 Meters Down, a low budget, slightly derivative but effective thriller that pits a couple of females against killer sharks. Originally 47 Meters Down was going to be released straight to DVD, but the success of the aforementioned The Shallows as well as the popularity of the risible Sharknado series, has seen the film gain a limited cinema release.

The plot as written by writer/director Johannes Roberts (a veteran of the horror genre with films like F and Storage 24 to his credit) and Ernest Riera (who collaborated with him on The Other Side Of The Door) is fairly simple. Sisters Lisa (pop singer Mandy Moore, from tv series This Is Us, etc) and Kate (Claire Holt, from The Vampire Diaries, etc) are on a holiday in Mexico. Lisa is the more conservative of the pair and is trying to get over her recent breakup from her boyfriend (James Van Der Beek, whose scenes were cut from the film). Kate is the more adventurous of the two, and after meeting a couple of hunky local lads (Yani Gellman and Santiago Segura) in a nightclub she convinces Lisa to accompany her on a shark dive experience. They board a rust bucket boat commanded by Captain Taylor (Matthew Modine), a salty sea veteran.

The sisters are given diving gear, placed in a rusty protective cage and lowered into the water after some chum has been thrown around to attract the sharks. But when the winch cable holding the cage snaps, the two plummet 45 meters down to the sea bed. They are trapped inside the cage. They have about an hour of oxygen left in their diving tanks. They are unable to leave the cage to swim to the surface because of the presence of the sharks, and also because they could suffer a crippling attack of the bends.

Moore and Holt generate some believable chemistry as the trapped siblings, and they manage to convey their growing sense of desperation as they wait to be rescued. They also work through a few sibling rivalry issues. But the pair also make some dumb decisions. They are too far down to be able to effectively communicate with Taylor and his crew, so they sometimes have to briefly leave the safety of the cage and head a few feet closer to the surface.

Moore delivers the stronger performance as the more sensible, clear thinking Lisa. Modine (best known for his work in Birdy and Full Metal Jacket, etc), has been absent from the big screen for some time, and here he plays the crusty Taylor almost as if he is in another movie altogether.

47 Meters Down is effective in building up some suspense and claustrophobic tension and director Roberts wastes little time in cutting to the chase. Roberts makes good use of the limited resources and single location though, and there are a couple of superbly staged set pieces. Although the film is ostensibly set it Mexico it was actually shot in a large water tank in England. The CGI sharks are reasonably well created and they provide a few well-placed jump scares as they suddenly emerge from the black waters.

Veteran underwater cinematographer Mark Silk (who has worked on films like Captain Phillips, Layer Cake, etc) has given the film a dark, moody visual style that suits the underwater locations. The film contains two different endings, which makes sense when you see the film.

47 Meters Down is not a perfect film by any means. The opening few scenes are a little clumsy and awkwardly handled, but once the film hits the water things pick up markedly. Some of the dialogue is a little cliched, and the characters are basically under developed and one dimensional. However, it is still more credible than the entire Sharknado series, or even the Australian thriller Bait, in which sharks circled a flooded supermarket following a huge storm.

47 Meters Down delivers enough suspense to hold the audience’s attention for most of its brisk 90 minutes. While not as gripping or as compelling as The Shallows or the classic Jaws, it is more than enough to put you off going to the beach anytime soon.
★★★

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