By: BabyRuth (Three Beers) –
If there’s one lesson we learned from last month’s Snatched, it’s NEVER LEAVE THE RESORT WHILE VACATIONING IN A FOREIGN COUNTRY EVEN IF YOU MEET A REALLY CUTE GUY AND IT SEEMS TOTALLY SAFE.
47 Meters Down is the latest entry in the Vacationing White Girls Making Stupid Decisions Cautionary Tale subgenre.
Lisa (Mandy Moore) is trying to get over a recent breakup. Her ex, some guy named Stuart, ended their relationship because he found her too boring. I’m not paraphrasing, that is the actual reason. Determined to prove him wrong and show him just how not boring she is, Lisa takes a trip to Mexico with her sister Kate (Claire Holt)—an adventure-seeking, bundle of fun. They’re sisters but they have such different personalities!
Lounging by the pool and drinking margaritas is just not cutting it for Kate so when the two meet a couple of attractive locals who suggest going on a cage-diving excursion—WITH SHARKS!— she convinces Lisa that it would be the perfect way for her to shed that boring image. Just think of Stuart’s face when he sees the Instagram posts! After a few drinks, Lisa reluctantly agrees. Surely it’s completely safe!
Totally safe! (I just noticed that the name of the boat is the “Sea Esta.” Get it? Puns! Irony!)
Lisa has a change of heart the next day once she sees the beat-up boat and rust-covered cage, but again Kate convinces her to stop being such a boring McBorepants. After the guys complete their dive and come back up to the surface unscathed and raving about the amazing experience, her fears subside.
Initially, all is good and the sisters take in the underwater view from the safety of the cage, only five meters down, while maintaining radio contact with the tour captain, Taylor (Matthew Modine) through their masks. Even Lisa starts to relax and enjoy herself.
But you know how that cage wasn’t looking so great? Only a few moments later, there’s a snap of a cable and the cage is sent plummeting down to the bottom of the ocean floor, 47 meters down, to be exact. Whoops! (Perhaps they should have invested a little more money into the winch system instead of those high-tech walkie-talkie-masks.)
With a very limited oxygen supply, out of range of contact with the boat, and several Great Whites circling them (thanks to good ol’ Captain Taylor illegally baiting the water with chum) the two sisters must figure out a way to make it back to safety before running out of air or becoming shark candy.
47 Meters Down has an interesting history. Originally titled In the Deep, it was intended to go straight to DVD/VOD by Weinstein-owned Dimension Films last August. But just days before the scheduled release, the film was acquired by Freestyle Media who then opted to wait until 2017 (the Summer ’16 shark horror movie quota had already been met with The Shallows) and give it a full theatrical release.
It was a smart move. This is one of those fun nail-biters that works best in a dark theater with a full audience just waiting to spill their popcorn. The atmosphere is dread-soaked, the tension is unbearable (in the best way), and the scares are well-earned. Director Johannes Roberts (The Other Side of the Door) keeps everything moving at a good pace and utilizes the fear of the unknown brilliantly, putting the audience into the sisters’ position. The intensity increases when the girls must leave the safety of the cage making them vulnerable to the razor-toothed predators lurking in the dark water. The action never breaks to the boat above, a wise decision as it leaves the viewer down below with the women wondering if help will ever come. And refreshingly, while the film is certainly very scary, it’s never excessively gory.
In a clever twist, the sharks aren’t even the biggest threat to our poor, unlucky protagonists. The limited supply of oxygen and danger of “the bends” (deadly nitrogen bubbles caused by swimming to the surface too quickly) pose just as much, if not more danger. Everything plays out in real time which makes the ticking down clocks on those tanks an always present concern.
But there are sharks of course! And 47 Meters Down contains some of the best CG sharks in recent memory. The effects are incredibly well done and seamless, never crossing that fine line of being so glaring that the viewer is removed from the immersive experience. The sharks are mostly seen in quick glimpses or partial views; each appearance makes a striking impact due to the less-is-more approach.
We’ve come a long way.
I also appreciated that the sharks behaved, well, like sharks, rather than the vengeful movie monsters they are usually portrayed as (again, see above).
Moore and Holt do an effective job of putting the audience into their characters’ situation, repeatedly shifting from fear to panic to relief and back again, even though the writing works against them.
Which brings me to…
Oh god, the dialogue.
I guess Roberts (also a co-writer, along with Ernest Riera) didn’t trust that the audience would be able to follow what they were watching because the sisters narrate Every. Single. Damn thing they do. Even when they aren’t talking to anyone. (“I’m almost out of air.” “I got the spear gun!”) It often took me out of the movie because I kept picturing Moore and Holt in a booth recording their ADR.
There are times when it is unintentionally hilarious though. At one point Moore’s character experiences a close call and exclaims in a comically chipper tone “I thought the shark was gonna get me!” which set off a chain reaction of snickers throughout the full preview audience at the screening I attended.
Much of the dialogue is clunky and full of exposition (we learn the two women are sisters by Kate looking for Lisa and yelling “Sis?” – who does that, really?) There’s a big sibling heart-to-heart at the bottom of the ocean that comes off as nothing more than an attempt to give the characters some conflict to resolve, which really isn’t necessary. And for chrissakes, they talk about freaking Stuart again! Who gives a shit about Stuart?! (Who we never even meet!) Save your precious air ladies!
This one is a little petty but I need to do it.
Early on, there’s one of those montages of the characters drinking and dancing in slow-motion. You guys know what I’m talking about. It’s usually used in comedies to depict fun times and debauchery. I am SO SICK of this overused, lazy trope. So like my fellow pet peeves, the ballerina jewelry box and the slow-motion traveling bullet effect: automatic beer.
Intense, terrifying, and just plain fun (and occasionally funny), 47 Meters Down is a welcome surprise. See it in a full theater. And see it soon, before someone spoils the ending.
47 Meters Down (2017) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: whenever the water turns red
Take a Drink: every time someone talks about stupid Stuart
Take a Drink: every time Taylor tells the girls to get back in the cage
Take a Drink: whenever Kate or Lisa narrate what is clearly happening onscreen
Take a Drink: whenever anyone says “the bends”
Take a Drink: whenever an oxygen tank beeps
Do a Shot: SHARK!
Do a Shot: “I thought the shark was gonna get me!”
Do a Shot: every time you yell “OH COME ON!” at the screen