Movie Review: “47 Meters Down” (PG-13)
“47 Meters Down” fails to capitalize on the success of last summer’s moderately successful “The Shallows” despite a simple premise that could have been pretty darn intense had it been properly executed. Alas, this is another in a long line of weak, high-concept survival thrillers that owe more than a thing or two to the likes of a little summer blockbuster called “Jaws.”
In “47 Meters Down,” sisters Lisa (Mandy Moore) and Kate (Claire Holt) decide to pair up with two men (Yani Gellman and Santiago Segura) they just met while vacationing in Mexico and head out on the open sea to take part in an underwater shark-sighting excursion. Lisa is skittish about the whole venture from the get-go, doubly so the moment she bears witness to the run-down boat they’ll be traveling on and lays eyes on the men captaining it (Matthew Modine and Chris Johnson). Once our heroines are in the cage and experiencing the breathtaking underwater vistas and the massive man-eaters that inhabit it, Lisa’s worries are out of sight out of mind — until the cable connecting their cage to the boat unexpectedly snaps. In a matter of minutes, Lisa and Kate find themselves 47 meters down with very little communication, sharks circling, and oxygen running dangerously low.
This all sounds like it would make for a pretty exciting time at the movies, doesn’t it? You’d think so, but ultimately, what should be a tense exercise in survivalist terror turns into an overly long exercise in tedium. “47 Meters Down” is repetitious, to say the least: numerous scenes featuring Kate or Lisa exiting the cage, swimming a few meters up to make contact with the surface, and being told to get back to the cage where its safe. We’re also annoyingly reminded on a couple of separate occasions that if Lisa and Kate attempt to swim to the surface too quickly, they’ll get the bends.
As a woman trying to get past a recent break-up, a generally likable Mandy Moore doesn’t do much to elevate the proceedings. When her terrified Lisa is in panic mode in this picture, it’s hard to tell whether her heavy breathing and squeals are a representation of her fear or pleasure. Claire Holt fares slightly better as the more calm and level-headed Kate.
Yani Gellman and Santiago Segura are appealing enough as the two men who talk Lisa and Kate into jumping into a cage surrounded by massive great white sharks. But honestly, they aren’t in the film enough to truly make a difference. Chris Johnson has a couple of amusing moments early on as the creeper of the south seas, but veteran Matthew Modine appears thoroughly bored as an individual who spends the majority of the film repeating himself off camera via a communicator. Modine is to “47 Meters Down” as Michael Caine is to “Jaws: The Revenge,” only with less personality.
The sharks have been the selling point in the marketing for this movie, but they really aren’t in the film all that much. Again, one might surmise they are the selling point because “The Shallows” did halfway decent box-office last summer. “47 Meters Down” is really more of a story about two women trying to remain calm and keep their wits about them as they sit helplessly in shark-infested waters. But “Open Water” this ain’t.
The thing is, director Johannes Roberts (who actually has his name ahead of the film title! This isn’t just “47 Meters Down.” No, this is “Johannes Roberts’ 47 Meters Down”) is unable to wring genuine tension out of a concept that should be filled with it. Even the ending of the picture, which for a fleeting moment appears as if it might grow a pair of balls by way of a nifty little twist, recoils and completely cops out.
In terms of visual style, there are moments in “47 Meters Down” that look real and other moments that look like half-assed green-screen shots. Likewise, when the sharks are seen from afar, they look like the real deal, but when they’re up close and in attack mode, they look less than stellar. Through it all, what really holds “47 Meters Down” back, aside from the tedious repetition of it all, is that I never genuinely got the sense that these women were actually stranded down there struggling to survive. I’ll tell you who was struggling, though. My wife and I! To stay awake!