47 Meters Down (2017)

Directed by Johannes Roberts
Written by Johannes Roberts and Ernest Riera

No summer is complete without a shark attack movie since Steven Spielberg wowed audiences with Jaws in 1975. While that may not be true (there isn’t a shark attack movie every summer), it remains that what Jaws did was inspire a generation of wannabes. I understand this is a review of the film 47 Meters Down, but if you get anything out of it, please go see Jaws if you haven’t already. It’s the benchmark. But in all seriousness, 47 Meters Down is the type of film that seems tailor-made for a summer release dump. A short scary movie that is just interesting and entertaining enough to make it into a theater as salvation from the rising temperatures outside. It’s enough to sit through in order to get a solid dose of A/C.

As with most of these types of movies, any semblance of a plot is merely shoehorned into the proceedings to try to get us to care about the characters, when all we really want is to see some shark action! Here that flimsy story is that of two sisters, Lisa (Mandy Moore) and Kate (Claire Holt). Lisa had planned a vacation to Mexico with her boyfriend, but after breaking up with him, she invites Kate to tag along. While there, they meet a couple of cute guys who persuade them to do a shark dive. The more adventurous Kate convinced the timid Lisa to go along with the idea to prove to her boyfriend that she can be fun and exciting. However, once in the water, the cable to their cage breaks, plunging them 47 meters down onto the ocean floor with limited oxygen remaining.

I was ready to walk out after the first five minutes. Everything about this film was pretty bad. The backstory on display here is pretty bad, even as shark attack movies go. If the intention was for me to care about these characters, to be invested in their survival once they get into the cage at the bottom of the open ocean predicament, then the filmmakers were way off base. This is a movie with two female leads and I’m not even sure it passes the Bechdel Test, which states that two named women characters must talk to each other about something other than men in order to pass. Writer/director Johannes Roberts paints Lisa and Kate with such broad strokes that all they can talk about is risking their lives to take a couple pictures that might impress Lisa’s ex into taking her back. Ugh.

Fast forward to the actual shark attack scenes though, and things begin to get better, if only marginally. Moore is particularly bad in this film, playing the endlessly whiny and hapless damsel in distress, and Holt isn’t much better though she is at least a little more self-sufficient. I would have liked to have seen Moore’s Lisa have the arc of someone who overcomes, but she is pretty consistently whiny, and so is the performance. Now where the film succeeds, at least somewhat, is with the shark attack scenes. Roberts films this underwater film in enough darkness to make the sharks mysterious. We never know when they’ll come, or where they’ll come from, making it fairly suspenseful throughout.

The only problem is the characters are so bland and annoying most of the time that the suspense is somewhat withdrawn. It came to the point that I started rooting for the sharks in fact, as morbid as that sounds, just on the basis of how horrible the characters and film were. That is a pretty serious indictment on a pretty horrible film. I would suggest avoiding this trainwreck if at all possible. If you are forced to see it, or it’s the next showtime at a theater in which you are taking refuge from the endlessly hot sun, just sit back and try to enjoy yourself. Have a laugh at the film’s expense. Maybe even enjoy some of the shark moments.

** – Poor

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