15 – 89mins – 2016
Dimension Films originally set this survivalist shark thriller for a summer 2016 straight-to-DVD release under the title In the Deep. A mere week before it was set to hit retailers’ shelves, Entertainment Studios snapped up the rights, cancelled the home release, reverted the title back to the original preference and announced a big screen bow for June 2017.
It’s quite a turnaround at the eleventh hour, no-doubt spurred on by the surprise success of last year’s decent Blake Lively vehicle The Shallows, and having now seen 47 Meters Down, I can’t help but think it will benefit no end from a cinema release – namely because the underwater scenes are so dark and confusing that I often had to refer to the Plot page on Wikipedia to decipher precisely what was going on.
But I’m diving ahead of myself. The film starts with two vacationing sisters, Lisa (former pop star Mandy Moore) and Kate (Claire The Vampire Diaries Holt) living it up in Mexico to heal Lisa’s recently broken heart. Deemed “boring” by ex-boyfriend Stuart, Lisa is (reluctantly) spurred on to take a “shady trip” on a shark diving boat helmed by Captain Taylor (Matthew Stranger Things Modine).
“It’s like going to the zoo… except you’re in the cage.”
As a pair of twenty foot great whites circle the girls in their observation cage, everything seems to be going swimmingly (ahem), until the cable snaps, plummeting the girls and their rusty prison the titular number of metres into the ocean. Able to communicate thanks to their masks, the girls deviate between weeping, panicking and attempting escape, while their oxygen supply dwindles and hungry sharks circle…
It was here that I began to lose the thread. I’m sure The Other Side of the Door director Johannes Roberts did a fine job with the claustrophobic underwater shots, but a combination of bright daylight and dark, jerky sequences meant that confusion soon set in. I wasn’t even certain whether Holt and Moore were really underneath their masks, or whether they simply ADR-ed heavy panting and dialogue over swim-sufficient stunt doubles.
Lighting qualms aside, the sharks are menacing brutes, truly jaw-dropping in size and believable in movement, and I really wish I was able to see more of them. They provide persistent tension without having much actual screen-time, while a nicely set-up bends-induced hallucination provides a nasty twist in the tale when survival seems secured. Sadly, the bulk of the film is a little repetitive, with one or other of the girls swimming outside the cage until the sharks drive them back inside. 47 Meters Down teases moments of promise, but ultimately offers nothing new or revolutionary to a crowded horror sub-genre.
CR@B’s Claw Score: