31st Jul2017

’47 Metres Down’ Review

by Matthew Turner

Review by Matthew Turner

Stars: Mandy Moore, Claire Holt, Matthew Modine, Chris Johnson, Yani Gellman, Santiago Segura | Written by Johannes Roberts, Ernest Riera | Directed by Johannes Roberts


Directed by Johannes Roberts (The Other Side of the Door), this ladies-in-peril shark thriller might lack the bite of last year’s The Shallows, but it delivers enough of the requisite suspense moments to ensure that it succeeds on its own B-movie terms.

Mandy Moore (TV’s This Is Us) and Claire Holt (TV’s The Vampire Diaries) play Lisa and Kate, two vacationing sisters who have come to Mexico to help Lisa get over being recently dumped by her boyfriend. (In an unexpected echo of Amy Schumer’s Snatched, Kate is a last-minute replacement for the now ex-boyfriend, which kind of makes you wish Schumer and Hawn had thrown in some sharks to liven things up a bit).

Down in the dumps because her boyfriend had said she was boring, Lisa is cajoled by sporty, outgoing Kate into going shark-cage diving (“Think of the Instagram photos!” is Kate’s winning argument) with a pair of attractive locals (Yani Gellman, Santiago Segura), in a ramshackle boat captained by Matthew Modine’s salty sea-dog.

Needless to say, it all goes horribly wrong. With the waters freshly chummed and the sharks circling, the cage chain breaks, sending Lisa and Kate plummeting to the ocean floor – yep, you guessed it – 47 Metres Down. Their problems don’t end there, however. Not only does a heavy object trap them in the cage, but they only have an hour of oxygen left each, and even if they escape the cage and swim for the surface, they risk dying from the dreaded bends, if the sharks don’t get them first.

To the film’s credit, the script (co-written by Roberts and Ernest Riera) wastes no time in setting up its effectively tense premise, finding a number of inventive ways to ratchet up the suspense once Lisa and Kate’s watery ordeal begins. For example, their diving suits are equipped with radio mikes, but they’re too far down to communicate with the boat… unless one of them swims a few metres upwards.

Roberts maintains an effectively intense atmosphere throughout, cleverly inducing terror through both claustrophobia (the confines of the cage) and the vast expanse of ocean all around them, with the added bonus of bitey creatures lurking in the darkness. The budget on the film clearly isn’t all that high, but Roberts makes strong use of tight close-ups and some solid sound design work, comfortably ensuring the suspension of disbelief, while the decision never to cut back to the boat once the women are underwater proves a sound one.

To be fair, the budget may have been low, but the CGI sharks are impressively rendered, at least in the scenes where they’re not interacting with other objects. Similarly, cinematographer Mark Silk does a great job on the underwater sequences, which turn out to have been shot, not in Mexico, but at the slightly less glamorous location of the Underwater Studio in Basildon. The magic of cinema, etc.

As for the performances, Moore and Holt make an appealing pair, generating convincing sibling chemistry and ensuring that the film passes the Bechdel Test with flying colours, at least once the dissing of the ex-boyfriend is done and dusted. However, their dialogue is occasionally a little too on-the-nose (e.g. “The shark almost got me!”), though you have to admire the high cheese factor of having the pair thrash out their sibling rivalry issues (“You were always the popular one”, etc) while in mortal peril.

Similarly, Modine is good value as Captain Taylor, adding just the right amount of charm necessary to make it believable that the women would board his rickety boat in the first place. By contrast, Gellman and Segura are rather under-developed, but that sort of works, given that they’re meant to be random potential hook-ups from the bar the night before.

Without giving too much away, the main problem with the film is its ending, which is a blatant steal from a similarly claustrophobic, much-admired British horror. However, the execution is decidedly clumsy and likely to provoke unintentional laughter rather than the intended gasps.

*** 3/5

47 Metres Down is in UK cinemas now.


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