Review: Johannes Roberts (The Other Side of the Door) uses his penchant to horror to create sharky open-water terror with a premise similar to Jaume Collett-Serra’s last summer cheap thrills The Shallows—involving deeper shallow-beach, more beautiful girls, and more sharks. Set in an exotic Mexican shore, 47 Meters Down sends Mandy Moore and Claire Holt straight to the hungry sharks in, as the title might suggest, 47 meters below the sea surface.
In 47 Meters Down, Kate (Holt), who has just found out that her sister, Lisa (Moore), ditched by her long-time boyfriend before their Mexican getaway, is at full earnestness to orchestrate an unforgettable vacation for her broken sister. Invited by two locals to cage-diving in shark-infested water, the more YOLO-induced Kate successfully persuades the more reluctant Lisa. What seems to be a larger-than-life excitement suddenly becomes a life-threatening moment for the girls when the crane falls, sending them into the bed of the ocean, with only limited oxygen to survive.
Sending the protagonists into a dire peril immediately as they’re introduced leading to the most fundamental questions: What would 47 Meters Down do for the whole film? If you’re expecting a full girls-versus-sharks rampage mode for most of the time, you’ll be utterly disappointed. Instead of luring the sharks to wreak havoc immediately, Roberts crafts a claustrophobic dilemmatic survival drama—a ‘damned if they stay, damned if they go’ trope—with the most inept characters to root for. And, that decision infamously cramps the duration with series of perilous attempts of survival.
Imagine being trapped in a cage under the ocean, where you can’t: directly communicate with people on the surface; directly swim up for rescue under the risk of oxygen depletion or getting eaten by sharks; waste limited oxygen supply; or, even, bleed, for it might invite the sharks over. The protagonist must choose their own poison down there; or they could cooperate to survive. 47 Meters Down plays out those cards they had a little clumsily fueled by awkward characterizations. Kate is depicted as a more courageous yet reckless chap; however, Lisa is a more doubtful but cautious; while Holt and Moore plays out strong chemistry, their on-screen characters are practically frustrating.
As much as the characters are frustrating, the film’s third act seals out the frustration. While the direction becomes more straightforward, the story suddenly reveals series of dumb, cringeworthy decisions completed by a cringeworthy twist. If you have the thought, like, the film could’ve ended in 20 minutes if they’ve done or not done things; then, you share the same frustration.
In the end, 47 Meters Down could still deliver cheap thrills despite its frustrating narrative and characterizations. Moore and Holt prove to be the stars among the sea of sharks, dumb decisions, and disappointing twist.
47 Meters Down