47 Meters Down Director: Johannes Roberts
Screenwriter: Johannes Roberts, Ernest Riera
Cast: Mandy Moore, Claire Holt, Matthew Modine, Chris J. Johnson, Yani Gellman, Santiago Segura
Distributor: Entertainment Studios
Rated PG-13 | 85 Minutes
Release Date: June 16, 2017
The late Chicago Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert once said, “No good movie is too long, just as no bad movie is short enough.” By that measure, 47 Meters Down was the longest 85 minutes of my life. It’s precious time that I’ll never get back. It’s time I would have gladly spent stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic or at the dentist’s office getting holes drilled into every tooth in my head.
Co-written and directed by Johannes Roberts (Storage 24, The Other Side of the Door), 47 Meters Down is a horror-thriller starring Mandy Moore (This Is Us) and Claire Holt (The Vampire Diaries) as sisters who go looking for adventure and find it in a shark-diving excursion that goes horribly wrong.
On the rebound after a break-up, Lisa (Moore) is out to prove to her ex that she’s spontaneous, and not the girl he got bored with, by taking a trip to Mexico with her fun-loving sister, Kate (Holt). Yes, the premise of this killer-shark movie is that a guy broke up with Mandy Moore because she’s Basic AFâ„¢, and her response is, “I’ll show him “” I’ll go on an exotic vacation and take a bunch of selfies that reveal just how fun I really am!” Yeah, good luck with that. I’m sure Stuart will take you back now that you’ve applied the Toaster filter to that Instagram of you drinking a margarita with the caption, “Toes in the sand, drink in hand.”
After meeting up with a couple of cute guys (Yani Gellman and Santiago Segura) at a dance club, the girls make plans to join them on an adventure where they will be lowered 16 feet into the ocean in a rickety cage to observe great white sharks in their natural habitat. Lisa, being the reserved, “boring” person she really is, is terrified of this excursion for two entirely rational reasons: 25-foot-long sharks and the fact that she doesn’t know how to scuba dive. Still, she gets into the cage because nothing wins over a douchey ex-boyfriend like a picture of you being eaten alive by an apex predator. Do it for the ‘gram, as the kids say.
To paraphrase Quint from Jaws, dumb, insipid characters go inside the cage. Cage goes in the water, they go in the water. Shark’s in the water. You get the idea. To make matters worse, beach bum Captain Taylor (Matthew Modine) and his salty first mate, Javier (Chris J. Johnson), chum the water to lure every shark in the area to their location. After all, what’s the point of going shark-driving if you’re not up to your neck in voracious, man-eating great whites?
Lisa’s fears are realized when the cage breaks away from the boat and plummets 47 meters down to the seabed. Trapped in an underwater prison, the sisters are too deep to radio for help without leaving the cage and making themselves shark bait, and a rapid ascent will lead to decompression sickness, a potentially deadly condition also known as “the bends.” With their oxygen supplies rapidly diminishing, Lisa and Kate have to work together to get to safety, even as a series of increasingly ludicrous events makes it unlikely that they will survive.
47 Meters Down is a dumb movie filled with dumb, unlikable characters who make the dumbest decisions possible at every given turn. How is anyone supposed to root for such a vapid, one-dimensional character like Lisa, a woman who exists only in the context of her relationship to a man? The impetus of the movie is that a sad, desperate woman puts herself in physical danger in the hopes that a man will assign value to her existence. Am I supposed to pity her for being so pathetic, or should I cheer on the shark for putting her out of her misery? I honestly don’t know.
Packed to the gills with clunky exposition and banal dialogue, 47 Meters Down is laughable as a pulse-pounding horror movie, but mildly entertaining as “so bad it’s horrible” sharksploitation trash. It feels less like Jaws or Open Water and more akin to something you might see on the Syfy Channel at 3am, like 3-Headed Shark Attack or Sharktopus vs. Whalewolf, but less fun. The comparison most people will make, however, is to last year’s shark survival flick, The Shallows, starring Blake Lively.
Yes, both movies feature women who go to Mexico on vacation and end up fighting a great white, but these two movies couldn’t be more different. Unlike 47 Meters Down, The Shallows is a well-crafted film with a solid script and a great performance from Lively, who plays a character that is resourceful, independent, and likable – everything Moore’s isn’t. There’s also legit tension in that movie, whereas all of the dread and suspense here is undermined by bad writing and cheap plot contrivances.
If there’s one nice thing I can say about Roberts’ movie, it’s that the CGI shark is surprisingly well-rendered; it’s the only lifelike thing in the whole film.