Film Review: ’47 Meters Down’

'47 Meters Down' Review

A formulaic but effective thriller about two sisters trapped beneath the waves in shark-infested waters.

Recounting the basic plot of “47 Meters Down” doesn’t do the film many favors, since any detailed synopsis likely will make it sound like one of those cheesy “Jaws” knock-offs that served as drive-in fodder in the 1970s. Indeed, it’s ridiculously easy to imagine the sort of breathless taglines and lurid poster art that might have been used decades ago to hard-sell this scenario about two vacationing sisters who are stranded in a shark-cage way below the waves while hungry Great Whites loom large all around them. (“Lynn Lowry and Claudia Jennings are … ‘Shark Bait!’”) But credit must be given where it is due: Director Johannes Roberts’ mostly underwater thriller is a compact and sturdily crafted B-movie that generates enough scares and suspense to qualify as — well, maybe not a pleasant surprise, but a reasonably entertaining one.

Mandy Moore and Claire Holt star as two attractive sisters who try hard to enjoy themselves during a Mexico holiday that Lisa, Moore’s character, had originally planned to share with her boyfriend. Shortly before the departure date, however, the lout dumped her for being too “boring” — which, truth to tell, Lisa fears she actually may be, especially when compared to Katie (Holt), her more worldly and adventurous sibling.

Dead set on bringing a little excitement into Lisa’s life, Katie goes overboard, literally as well as figuratively, by more or less browbeating her sister into joining her and two hunky locals (Yani Gellman, Santiago Segura) for a shark-diving expedition aboard the Sea Esta, a boat skippered by a salty dog portrayed by a credibly seasoned Matthew Modine.

As soon as she sees the ramshackle condition of the Sea Esta, Lisa has second thoughts — and, once on board, third and fourth thoughts — about sightseeing below sea level. But after she and Katie are outfitted in scuba gear and lowered into the water inside a protective cage, her trepidation gives way to exhilaration. (An amusing touch: After donning her wetsuit, the insecure Lisa asks Katie: “Does my butt at least look cute in this?”) Both sisters are thrilled to see sharks swimming all around them, and take great delight in what obviously is a bonding experience.

And then, of course, something goes terribly wrong: The crane used to lower the cage snaps from the boat, and the sisters plummet — yes, you guessed it! — 47 meters down, to the bottom of the ocean. With limited air supplies. And sharks, lots of sharks, hovering nearby.

Working from a serviceably schematic screenplay he co-wrote with Ernest Riera, Roberts efficiently establishes the rules of the game early in his movie: Each of the sisters has only an hour’s worth of air in her tank. They can talk to each other because their masks are rigged with microphones and speakers — but, because they’re down so deep, it’s difficult to communicate with people on the boat above them. Even if the sharks temporarily leave the vicinity, Katie and Lisa would have to swim to the surface very, very slowly, lest they suffer a fatal case of the bends. Trouble is, such a measured ascent would leave them in a vulnerable position if the sharks changed their minds and returned for a snack or two.

Most of the underwater scenes were shot — extremely well, by DP Mark Silk — inside a massive tank at the Underwater Studio in Basildon, England. (Something like an hour of this 89-minute feature is supposed to take place in the dark depths of the ocean.) And the sharks, while adequately menacing as they sporadically appear from out of nowhere, are CG contrivances. But everything looks and sounds more than believable enough to encourage a willing suspension of disbelief, even during a few scenes that, dramatically speaking, strain credibility.

Moore and Holt comes across as sympathetic and resourceful as their characters register varying degrees of stark terror, desperate determination and teary optimism. They bring impressive conviction to the sometimes bluntly simplistic dialogue (“The shark almost got me!” Oh, really?) and help the movie pass the Bechdel Test with flying colors. Except for a brief scene in which they talk about Lisa’s ex-boyfriend, the two women have many conversations that have nothing to do with men, and everything to do with survival, once they’re alone together 47 meters down.

Film Review: '47 Meters Down'

Reviewed at Edwards Greenway Grand Palace, Houston, June 13, 2017. MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 89 MIN.

Production

An Entertainment Studios Motion Pictures release of a Tea Shop & Film Company production, in association with Dimension Films, The Fyzz Facility, Altitude Film Sales, Dragon Root, Flexiborn Films, Lantica Pictures. Producers: Mark Lane, James Harris. Executive producers: Bob Weinstein, Harvey Weinstein, Wayne Marc Godfrey, Robert Jones, Will Clarke, Andy Mayson, Mike Runagall, Iain Abrahams, Simon Lewis, Christophe Lannic,  Byron Allen, Carolyn Folks, Jennifer Lucas, Mark DeVitre, Chris Charalambous, Mark Borde.

Crew

Director: Johannes Roberts. Screenplay: Roberts, Ernest Riera. Camera (color): Mark Silk. Editor: Martin Brinkler. Music: tomandandy.

With

Mandy Moore, Claire Holt, Matthew Modine, Chris Johnson, Yani Gellman, Santiago Segura.

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  1. Tom B says:

    Now I know why I have avoided going to the movies for 20 Years. Many technical incongruities

  2. Pat says:

    Movie stunk!

  3. Nathan Doty says:

    I havent seen this, just the trailers. Im a certified diver though. They cant possibly have an hour of air. At the surface, standard tank and an experienced diver, an hour plus. An Inexperienced diver, 45 minutes. At 20′ (just over 6 meters) a new diver swimming calmly will go through that tank in about 30 minutes. At 141 feet (47 meters) that same diver will burn it up in about 15 minutes. The deeper you go, the more you use. Generalities here as everyone is different, but that tank isnt going to last long.
    #
    Add that they have been using that air while sightseeing, panic, screaming, hyperventilating, you have 2 dead girls about 5 minutes after touchdown.

    Then there is pressure. I was diving nassau day before yesterday, only to 60-70 feet, roughly 20ish meters. It took about 5 minutes to get to the bottom. As you get deeper you constantly have to equalize the pressure in your head and my left ear was not wanting to cooperate at all. Even normal, you havento descend slowly. That pressure HURTS. And ignoring it causes permanent damage. To drop 47 meters
    quickly, non stop and not equalizing, you have 2 deaf girls SCREAMING in pain as both eardrums have ruptured. At best.

    It probably isnt as bad as vertical limit but im guessing its also relying on the audience having no idea that the writers also have no idea.

  4. Joshua countess says:

    I liked the movie but the ending I can’t figure out if Lisa died or not

    • Beckie says:

      I just saw it this afternoon and I was very unsatisfied by the abrupt ending. I couldn’t figure out if the girl (s) survived either. The film seemed useless with the ending just left hanging. I was hoping they got rescued and survived.

    • Cindy says:

      Nathan Doty, I guess that’s why it’s just a movie for entertainment purposes and not a documentary.

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