Clunky '47 Meters Down' is good for some guilty frights
Posted June 16
“47 METERS DOWN” — 2½ stars — Mandy Moore, Claire Holt, Matthew Modine, Yani Gellman, Santiago Segura; PG-13 (sequences of intense peril, bloody images and brief strong language); in general release
“47 Meters Down” is a fun kind of bad. In its opening sequence, the protagonist is attacked in a hotel pool by her fun-loving sister, spilling a glass of red wine into the water as the movie title looms up against a campy blood-like backdrop. Right away, the audience knows that what is to come is not cinematic brilliance, but old-fashioned frights.
We know just enough about the principals to separate them from the fish chum that seals their fate. Kate (Claire Holt) is the young and popular sister who gets all the attention from the boys; Lisa (Mandy Moore) is her older and more conservative sibling, recovering from a breakup and hoping to inject a little spontaneity into her life.
After a night of partying, the sisters agree to go on a diving tour off the coast of Mexico with a couple of locals they met during their nocturnal adventures. They’ll float safely in a shark cage a few meters underwater while the wonders of the ocean surround them.
The boat looks like it predates Captain Ahab, and the girls note that chumming the water to attract sharks is technically illegal, but their unlicensed tour guides — led by a grizzled Matthew Modine as Taylor, who looks like Matthew Modine hiding out in witness protection — assure them that everything’s fine.
And it is, until five minutes into their dive the cage breaks off and sinks to the ocean floor (47 meters down, to be specific). The door is jammed shut, their radios are out of range, and if they try to swim to the surface, they will either get killed by sharks or the bends (the sickness, not the Radiohead album).
Fortunately, director Johannes Roberts isn’t quite cruel enough to make us suffer through an hour of watching our leads sit quietly at the bottom of the ocean using up the air in their tanks. After a bit of obligatory screaming and panicking, Kate and Lisa set about figuring a way out of their predicament.
From here, “47 Meters Down” is a fifty-fifty split between genuine tension and eye-rolling good times. The water is just murky enough to keep you from seeing what is swimming around, even though you can pretty much feel every attack coming. The plot is entirely predictable, and supplanted by ludicrous exposition.
When, after establishing radio contact, Taylor tells the girls that his associate Javier (Chris Johnson) is on his way with a new winch, you know Javier will be dead soon. Later, when Taylor warns the girls that switching to a new oxygen tank underwater could lead to hallucinations, you know that at some point one of the girls will start hallucinating.
The movie is clunky and incompetent enough to keep it from any legitimate comparisons to the great shark movies (“Jaws,” and, well, “Jaws”). But “47 Meters Down” is just campy enough, and just frightening enough, to qualify as a fun guilty pleasure. This one will be a perfect half of a double-feature for anyone who still lives close to a drive-in movie theater, and even on its own, it might provide just enough escapist thrills to justify a ticket.
Just make sure you learn the lesson: Never take an unlicensed diving tour off the coast of Mexico, especially if your captain looks a little like Matthew Modine.
“47 Meters Down” is rated PG-13 for sequences of intense peril, bloody images and brief strong language; running time: 89 minutes.
Joshua Terry is a freelance writer and photographer who also teaches English composition for Weber State University. You can also find him on <a href='https://www.youtube.com/moviereviewsbyjosh' target='_blank'>YouTube</a>.