47 Meters Down (2017)
Director: Johannes Roberts
Screenwriters: Johannes Roberts, Ernest Riera
Cast: Mandy Moore, Claire Holt, Matthew Modine
So there I was, sitting down minding my own business when I stumble across yet another trailer for another killer shark movie.
“Another one?” I think to myself, “really?”
How many times can they do shark movies? When are we going to get a horror movie about killer sea turtles? I’d definitely give that points for originality, at least. On the back of The Shallows (2016) and Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No! (2015), it seems almost ludicrous for studios big or small to expect us to plonk ourselves in front of our screens and watch the next “must see” latest addition to the killer shark sub-genre, though 47 Meters Down may have been more fun than I expected…
Johannes Roberts (The Other Side of the Door – 2016) directs 47 Meters Down which sees sisters Kate and Lisa go cage diving with sharks on their Mexican vacation in an attempt to prove to Lisa’s ex-boyfriend that she’s not as boring as he’s told her she is, only for things to go awry when the cable attaching their cage to the boat snaps, leaving the leading ladies… you’ve guessed it… forty-seven metres below the surface of the ocean, surrounded by deadly sharks and running dangerously low on oxygen.
The film opened with the typical shark movie cliché, taken right out of the Jaws (1975) playbook, of a point of view shot of the ocean’s supposedly most vicious predator making its way towards the surface of the ocean where we see some surely soon to be gobbled up girl casually sitting on her inflatable chair without a care in the world. Whilst she bobs around above our heads for a while, the camera lingers menacingly a few feet below as our shark is ready to pounce (or rather, do whatever it is sharks do… surge, perhaps?). However, unlike the more celebrated of shark-based monster movies, the rather long forty-eight seconds of waiting puts a stop to the suspense, leaving thoughts like “man, I wish this movie would just hurry up and start”.
Once it did, I found myself quite enjoying it and, despite it being a film about two people bobbing around under water for forty-eight minutes of screen time, it didn’t drag to the same degree as I would have expected, something I feel happens a lot in other survival movies (and shark movies), with Open Water (2003) being a prime example.
47 Meters Down was gripping enough that I was kept entertained and perched, just a little way, on the edge of my seat. With a few twists and turns, some sisterly bonding and some scenes that still made you jump even though you knew exactly what to expect, eyes remain tracked to the screen and, combined with a handful of ‘so close, yet so far’ moments, it surpassed the poor expectations I had about the latest in a dragging list of films that seemed to have been bloating the shark sub-genre for many a decade. It was also nice to see that the characters were dressed in practical diving clothing, rather than attempt a deep-sea dive in skimpy bikinis…
Like every half-decent movie, 47 Meters Down is not without its flaws. For every moment I feel a pang of sympathy for the sisters, I want to slap one of them for being so obvious. “We’re running out of air!” Lisa cries, for the millionth time. You know, if you stopped complaining about it every other second, your air would probably last a lot longer..
The expository dialogue was tiresome, then, and the plot also got somewhat repetitive. They get out of the cage, they get back in. They get out, they get back in, out, in… I mean, come on, after the second shark attack, you think you’d just do as your told and wait it out in the cage, don’t you think?
Just as patience wears thin with it’s repetitive dialogue however, the film makes an excellent move. We realise it’s not the sharks we’re afraid of, it’s the sheer vastness of the ocean. Clever camera angles have already had us submerged right alongside Lisa and Kate, as they were lowered below the surface, through the panic, chaos and the air bubbles, with the oxygen tanks hissing a constant reminder. Roberts places us in the struggle for breath beside them, taking a deep gasp and releasing the breath we’ve been holding when they finally get their hands on another precious oxygen tank. So when the camera pans out to see nothing but great empty space surrounding us, when Lisa swims so far from the cage, and her sister is unable to find her way back, we too are left feeling the overwhelming sense of the vast yet claustrophobic open water. This, I found, was an interesting and thrilling change from the typical and simple shark attacks we all thought we were going to get.
All in all, I was pleasantly surprised by 47 Meters Down and, despite a few flaws, found it to be exciting and engaging, while at least attempting to offer something different to the tiresome formula at key stages of its narrative. Did it compare to Spielberg’s classic Jaws? More so; should the industry keep making killer shark movies? The answer is: no, probably not. But at least this one can be filed under the “would watch again” category.