Starring: Mandy Moore, Claire Holt, Chris Johnson
Directed by: Johannes Roberts (“The Other Side of the Door”)
Written by: Johannes Roberts (“The Other Side of the Door”) and Ernest Riera (“The Other Side of the Door”)
For a movie originally slated for a direct-to-VOD release, it’s amazing how much “47 Meters Down” accomplishes with so little. Then again, this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. So many movies are finding audiences without ever being given a theatrical release. It’s clear that writer/director Johannes Roberts has a few tricks up his sleeve, and hopefully we’ll be able to see more of him now that his latest film has been graced with a wide release.
Mandy Moore and Claire Holt headline the film as sisters Lisa and Kate, who have traveled to Mexico for a fun summer vacation. Lisa is feeling a bit low in light of her breakup, but Kate continues to encourage her to do exciting things to make her ex jealous – like going into a tank and seeing sharks up close, for example.
That previous paragraph is the extent to which this film goes for characterization. Not only is there no journey of self-discovery here, but the movie doesn’t even seem interested in fleshing out any sort of arc for Lisa, who ultimately takes center stage here. Normally this kind of writing would be insulting, but Roberts and cowriter Ernest Riera are clearly more interested in the thrills, which more than make up for the film’s one-dimensionality.
Lisa and Kate’s shark tank journey goes incredibly wrong with the cable holding them up breaks and sends them plummeting down to the depths of the ocean. With limited air, light, and sharks lurking in the depths, Lisa and Kate must find a way to survive before their time runs out.
“47 Meters Down” has a definite sense of location, with Roberts moving his camera around fluidly to create a genuine sense of suspense. The majority of the film is set underwater, with characters talking to each other through headsets. It’s something that could have gone so wrong, but Roberts continuously gives him film jolts of energy, deftly mixing pulp and terror in a way that demands the audience’s investment.
“47 Meters Down” successfully depicts the unsettling creepiness that is endless ocean, creating a feeling not dissimilar to “Gravity.” Again, the comparisons end there, particularly when it comes to fleshing out the film’s characters. There is some slight satisfaction in seeing Lisa start to take control of her situation, but it’s more out of necessity than anything.
The film’s writing does make for a excruciatingly bland first act, but beyond that it’s hard to notice there really isn’t a character arc for anyone when we just want to see how Lisa and Kate avoid their latest problem. The 89-minute movie builds to a twist that you’ll probably be able to see coming, but that doesn’t make it any less effective. Speaking of effective, the use of sharks in this movie is executed very successfully through a mix of practical and special effects.
Perhaps I was surprised by this movie because of how low my expectations were, but I found “47 Meters Down” a thrilling summer flick. Given that most of my expectations about anything in today’s world continue to be met or turn out to be too optimistic, it’s nice to be wrong sometimes.