47 Metres Down (2017) Reviewby ASelenatorsView
47 Metres Down is directed by Johannes Roberts (The Other Side of the Door, Storage 24) and stars Mandy Moore (Tangled, A Walk to Remember) and Claire Holt (H2O: Just Add Water, The Originals). "Two sisters vacationing in Mexico are trapped in a shark cage at the bottom of the ocean. With less than an hour of oxygen left and great white sharks circling nearby, they must fight to survive". With "The Shallows" last year and now "47 Metres Down", shark films are making a comeback...will they return to the standard "Jaws" set in 1975?
I really liked "The Shallows" from last year...it got everything right. The thrills, the acting and the story surprisingly had some depth and heart to it. The only thing with depth in "47 Metres Down" is the 47 metres that the cage falls down. I've seen some really negative buzz about this film online - for once, critics have been kinder than audience members. However, I believe that is down to 47 Metres Down simply being mis-marketed. The film is advertised as a shark film but really, the sharks are an after thought and it's actually about being trapped under water with air running out. There was still tension and thrills but definitely not enough of the type that the audience would be expecting when purchasing a ticket for this flick.
As already mentioned, I wouldn't call 47 Metres Down a shark film. There are other scary things going on on top of the fearsome sea creatures. This leads to them slipping into the shadows. The sharks feel like a forced plot device to get these two ladies trapped underwater- the set up is promising but somehow, just the mysterious threats of the ocean eclipse the sharks. Much of the plot emphasises the dangers of running out of air rather than the dangers of the sea monsters. The best 'shark moment' actually happens in a hallucination which demeans that moment when the hallucination twist is revealed. To the film's credit, the sharks are all well realised and are quite scary. There are also some effective jump scares and tense moments surrounding the sharks. However, where I felt most tense and worried for these characters is when their air tanks were running low. This was an inevitable threat. The film does take place in 'movie world' though and there are some issues with how long the air lasts- 80% apparently only lasts 20 minutes that low but the other sister who is on 30% lasts for at least another 20 minutes of the film. The characters also make some silly decisions, they should just stay in the cage and wait- there are humans on sea level who are aware of the problem and of course they are likely trying to get help.
I find it hard to judge the performances in this film as you rarely get a glimpse of the actress' faces (and therefore emotions and reactions) once they are in the water. Both actresses (their voices anyway) can be grating at times which reduces their likability. The acting neither amazing or to the standard of Blake Lively's impressive performance in The Shallows. It's great to see Mandy Moore still working but her performance comes across quite mundane here- both actresses feel like unknown amateurs. They are definitely not distinguishable and you do not leave the cinema feeling inspired to research who played who. I also was not a fan of how the characters were written - their back-story and motivations. Lisa (Moore) has recently broken up with her partner and it is revealed that she has gone on this holiday purely to prove to him that she can have fun. Kate (Holt) takes advantage of this and pressures Lisa into going in the cage by mentioning how great it will appear to Kate's ex. I just found it pretty insulting to women that these two female characters are motivated by the attention of men. On top of this, the characters don't make exactly logical decisions, are easily misled, are victims and are eventually saved by men. All the perfect character tropes for the ideal female character! (NOT).
I am really impressed by how realistic the film is with just a 5 million budget. I worried that the film would feel very low budget (maybe that's why there is a lack of sharks) but all the underwater scenes genuinely felt like they took place underwater...and water is hard to get right! It also just occurred to me that the film might have actually been filmed underwater, now that is impressive! The plot itself was paced almost ideally. There was always something going on- whether that be the girls almost being rescued and then plummeting again, hallucinating, running out of air or being hunted by sharks. The script was very obvious though, there are very clear hints inserted that foreshadow what is to come. For example, when new air tanks are sent down, the only other thing the Captain says is a warning to the girls about hallucinations and then a few scenes later...they hallucinate! Things like this happen a lot throughout the film which makes the plot feel a little dot-to-dot like.
The best way to describe 47 Metres Down is a low brow version of Jaws, Gravity and 127 Hours combined. It wants to have the best qualities of all of those films, and it really could have, but it never manages to get there. The film doesn't know what it wants to be- a shark film? a confined thriller? an endurance thriller? exploring sister relationships? However, it is none of those things. What we get is a pretty basic, one dimensional thriller with dumb characters but admittedly some genuine thrills and tension. 47 Metres Down does look impressive for its low budget and the two leads, Mandy Moore and Claire Holt scrape by with some pretty mundane performances. Despite its flaws, 47 Metres Down is perfectly watchable and is fun in the moment. Just don't expect a shark film because this one doesn't have quite enough jaws. These characters may be 47 Metres Down but everything else about the film is quite shallow.