Faulty Execution Sinks “47 Meters Down”
Lets hope that having to sit through a bad shark movie doesn’t become an annual tradition. Last year’s “The Shallows” was dead on arrival and now we have “47 Meters Down,” another tepid adventure that fails to deliver the thrills one would expect from a feature focused on one of nature’s most efficient killing machines. Instead we get one red herring after another where ocean-going predators are concerned, as well as a manipulative script that goes to great lengths to extend this story far past its logical conclusion.
Sisters Lisa and Kate (Mandy Moore & Claire Holt) have taken a vacation to Mexico for distinctly different reasons. The former is there in an effort to put a recent break-up behind her, while her younger sibling is just seeking a thrill or two. They, and the script by director Johannes Roberts and Ernest Riera, waste little time in finding just that when they go out with a couple of local hunks who convince them to go on a real adventure. They hook them up with American ex-pat Captain Taylor (Matthew Modine), a rather mysterious guy who has a bucket of bolts that’s held together by the copious amount of rust it has. Seems he has an ancient shark cage that he lowers tourists in so they can get an up close look at the Great Whites that cruise the area. The sisters will be only five meters down in the water and their two new friends, the captain and his first mate will be there to pull them out if they find themselves in any danger.
What could possibly go wrong?
Credit Johannes Roberts for wasting little time as he dispenses with our heroine’s backstories and gets them in the water within the film’s first fifteen minutes. This sort of narrative economy is commendable and helps raise expectations in the audience, as surely the director must have some impressive things to show us if he moves things along that quickly, right? That sense of anticipation is soon scuttled as after the shark cage the ladies finds themselves plummets to the titular depth, boredom sets in as they panic, discuss their relationship and panic some more before coming up with a lamebrain plan to escape their would-be watery grave.
The appearances of the sharks are far too infrequent to create any real suspense and once they do glide by, we get nothing but a quick glimpse or a blur, while their attacks might just as well have happened off screen they’re so ineffectively filmed and happen so quickly. One thing Roberts does succeed in is effectively capturing the immensity of the ocean, it’s overwhelming darkness and the sense of isolation one experiences when adrift. With this, he manages to generate some true fear.
However, this simply isn’t enough, especially when a cheap narrative device is used to “trick” the audience, a turn that’s telegraphed early and often. In the end, “47 Meters Down” proves to be a movie adrift, one that simply can’t sustain any buoyancy thanks to it lack of innovation.