’47 Meters Down’ raises the bar despite some silliness

“47 Meters Down” – Just briefly glancing at the “47 Meters Down” poster, one can easily discern the plot of this nifty – but flawed – new thriller from director Johannes Roberts.  Two young women sit in a cage at the bottom of either a very, very large aquarium or the ocean, and a number of sharks (five to be exact) are hovering just above their iron crate.

Lisa (Mandy Moore) and Kate (Claire Holt) are sisters vacationing in Mexico, and after a brief heart-to-heart at the pool, they decide to paint the local beach town red.  They meet a couple of nice local guys, but Louis (Yani Gellman) and Benjamin (Santiago Segura) unfortunately suggest that the four of them view the ocean – and specifically sharks – within the confines of a the previously-mentioned cage.   Since it can only hold two at a time, the girls hop in on their own, but the cable snaps as the cage races to the ocean’s bottom, 47 meters below the surface.  For the record, for those not entirely familiar with the metric system (and include me in the mix), 47 meters equals just over 51 yards, in other words, half a football field.

Shark movies have taken on many, many incarnations over the years, with last year’s “The Shallows” offering a new twist.  Blake Lively’s character, Nancy, is trapped on a rock, about 200 meters away from the shoreline, and a nasty, nearby shark attempts to ensure that she stays there.  Nancy fears the rising tide, because soon, she would have no refuge to avoid the ocean predator.  A race against time.

Lisa and Kate endure another level of complication, because their race against time is with the decreased oxygen in their tanks.  They don’t have long before their “bars” reach zero, and the boat captain (Matthew Modine in a welcomed, onscreen appearance) were told once their tanks decrease to 50 (from a starting point of 200), they need to reach the surface.  The problem is any attempt to leave the small iron prison will leave them vulnerable to becoming shark food.

Roberts creates a wonderfully claustrophobic environment with no obvious paths towards resolution, and as the events play out, squirming in one’s seat becomes the norm over the 1 hour 29 minute runtime.  When the sharks make themselves visible, the dramatic tension can reach a fever pitch, but anxiety builds even more when Roberts’ camera does not shine a light on the many, many sharks, circling the boat and lurking anywhere from 1 to 47 meters below.

He offers one particular terrifying sequence when Lisa leaves the cage and travels quite a distance away from it.  With a flashlight, she shines it into the darkness, as she and we see floods of particles and small fish race by.   Thirty meters below the ocean’s surface certainly is another world that “Finding Nemo” (2003) might provide some hints, but this moment in the picture truly terrifies.

Overall, “47 Meters Down” offers a unique premise in the shark movie-world and amps up many minutes of angst and additional self-promises of never donning scuba suits and gear.  On the other hand, while the environment and the carefully crafted, filmed sequences bring intrigue and terror, some unintended humor breaks up the movie at inopportune times.  For instance, while outside the cage, Kate has a close call, and in her best teenage voice says, “The shark almost got me.”

She may be fearful, but the moment generated plenty of laughs in the crowded theatre.  Other conversations defy logic too, as the girls reassure each other with phrases like, “It’s going to be okay”, “I’m fine” or “We can do this.”  They are either the most composed young women on the planet or the script does not accurately portray how two young adults would communicate via their extremely precarious predicament.

It just cinematically feels a little sloppy, and maybe the beginning of the film led to a bit of lazy filmmaking foreshadowing.  When the girls are partying, Roberts shows a picturesque shot of Kate and Lisa ankle deep in the ocean with the warm morning daylight surrounding them.  One of the girls shouts, “I could be here all night!”

Well, first you have to be here all day first.  Oh, but what the day will bring.

⭐⭐ 1/2  out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Image credits: Entertainment Studios; YouTube credits:  Zero Media

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