UK Release Date: 26th July 2017
Runtime: 89 minutes
Director: Johannes Roberts
Writer: Johannes Roberts, Ernest Riera
Starring: Mandy Moore, Claire Holt, Matthew Modine, Chris J Johnson, Yani Gellman, Santiago A Segura
Synopsis: Two women are talked into going cage diving with sharks by a pair of local men they meet on holiday but, when the cable snaps, they plummet to the seabed as the predators circle.
As someone who considers Jaws to be the greatest film ever made, it’s fair to say that I always approach shark movies with a degree of caution. That was certainly the case with 47 Metres Down, in which two thrill-seeking holidaymakers find themselves stranded in a cage on the seabed, with ravenous sharks circling them as their oxygen runs out. It’s a compelling, claustrophobic chiller that ekes plenty of tension out of its ridiculous premise and, a couple of dodgy CGI sharks aside, it largely delivers on its silly central idea to provide a fun addition to the carnivorous canon of the killer shark movie.
Lisa (Mandy Moore) and sister Kate (Claire Holt) are on holiday in Mexico, with Kate taking the spot of Lisa’s ex-boyfriend, who recently dumped her because he said she was boring. Determined to help Lisa prove her ex wrong, Kate meets local man Javier (Chris J Johnson), who organises for the girls to go shark diving in a cage on a boat owned by Captain Taylor (Matthew Modine). Initially, the girls have fun, but things quickly go south when the winch breaks, sending both women down to the seabed, where they face rapidly depleting oxygen and dozens of hungry sharks.
Claustrophobia is always a reliable source of big screen terror and that’s exactly where 47 Metres Down pitches its tent. There’s a delightful contrast between the almost infinite expanse of water in which the film is set and the way director Johannes Roberts – previously best known for dismal supernatural horror movie The Other Side of the Door – focuses his action almost entirely on the cramped confines of the cage. Much like the Oscar-winning Gravity found isolation and claustrophobia in space, 47 Metres Down turns the murky depths of the ocean into a prison – and the tension is often unbearable.
This is a film that is wedded to horror movie formula, but does a really good job with it. Every time either Lisa or Kate leaves the cage in order to contact those on the surface or investigate a possible chance of escape, the presence of the sharks – which remain mostly off screen – is keenly felt. A handful of well-timed jump scares create a real sense of risk that pulsates throughout the movie. A more omnipresent threat, though, is that of the rapidly dwindling oxygen supply the women have, which provides 47 Metres Down with a ticking clock tension to mine when its sharp-toothed critters are swimming elsewhere. It’s a shark movie where the sharks might actually be the least scary threat.
The central performances from Holt and Moore are very strong given the minimalist setting and the script, by Roberts and co-writer Ernest Riera, does a decent enough job of sketching the characters in order to give us room to care about their fate. 47 Metres Down does enough character work before the girls are submerged that we are able to distinguish them from each other and we believe their reactions to the situation – Moore falling into hysteria, while Holt goes all MacGyver in search of an escape route. These characters are likeable and we want them to survive, even as the odds become seemingly insurmountable.
Unfortunately, 47 Metres Down struggles for air in its final act and throws together a hodgepodge of an ending that tries to have its cake and eat it via an eminently guessable twist in the tale. That doesn’t undermine any of the stellar work that has come before it to build some scary foundations, though, and the film remains a worthy addition to the horror world.
Pop or Poop?
Of all of the horror movies released into cinemas this year, 47 Metres Down is perhaps the most successful in terms of pure, knuckle-chewing tension. Johannes Roberts finds real scares in the tale of two women in desperate circumstances, surrounded by some nicely-rendered and sparingly used CGI sharks.
The performances are incredibly solid and, although the script occasionally veers into trite storytelling and conjures a duff ending, it’s great when it works.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.