Originally planned as a direct to DVD release, 47 Meters Down
was bumped up to a theatrical summer release after last year's shark thriller, The Shallows
, became a surprise sleeper hit. At the very least, the movie feels like it was meant for the big screen from the beginning. The movie is taut, suspenseful when it needs to be, and holds two strong lead female performances by Mandy Moore and Claire Holt.
They play sisters Lisa (Moore) and Kate (Holt), who are vacationing at a Mexican resort. Lisa was originally supposed to be there with her boyfriend, but he has recently broken up with her because "she was boring". Kate, naturally, is the polar opposite of the conservative and somewhat shy Lisa. Kate is brash, adventurous, and basically wants to see her sister happy again. They meet two local guys at a bar who try to talk them into an experience where they could go diving with sharks. Kate, naturally, leaps at the idea and signs them both up. Her excuse as to why Lisa should come along? They can take photos of them swimming with sharks, and send them to her ex to show just how exciting Lisa can be. Lisa reluctantly agrees eventually, and the next day, the women are being led by those guys to a rusted old boat captained by the grizzled Captain Taylor (Matthew Modine, who makes the most out of a limited role, and is quite good).
The boat has a less-than-secure looking shark cage hanging off the back, which will drop the girls just five meters, so they can take photos safely. But while the girls are down there, the cable holding the cage snaps, and they dropped 47 meters below. Trapped and with no way to contact the ship, since they are too far down for radio communication with the boat above, the sisters must rely on each other for survival, while avoiding detection from the various sharks that inhabit the waters. They do manage to eventually get to a point where they can communicate with the boat, with the Captain informing them to stay put while they send help, and contact the Coast Guard. But, there are a variety of complications, ranging from their oxygen tanks only having a limited amount of air, to being trapped within the cage that is the only thing keeping them safe.
Thanks to this simple premise, some effective acting, as well as convincing special effects, 47 Meters Down
is able to create a strong sense of tension for most of its rapid running time. It's the kind of movie that effectively delivers thrills, gives us a couple quiet moments that allows us to get behind these two characters trapped underwater, and even throws in an effective jolt once in a while. It also adds an angle we don't usually see in shark movies, where the human leads are trapped in the shark's domain, instead of having the aquatic predator approaching our turf. The movie is smart too, making the leading women not just sympathetic, but intelligent survivors. There's even a sort of twist near the end, but it's pretty easy to spot coming if you're paying attention. Regardless, the movie is simple and effective, and that's really all you can ask from a movie like this.
It's true that no movie will ever top 1975's Jaws
, the Citizen Kane
of shark movies. But, at the very least, there's still life in the genre. It's the kind of movie that will give you enough shocks to be satisfied, and maybe make you second guess that aquatic adventure vacation you might be planning for the summer.