Here’s a little-known fact about me: I love snorkeling. The last vacation I took down to Mexico, I spent five out of the seven days we were there floating around the ocean and several cenotes, taking in all the views of aquatic life that I could possibly get. But here’s the thing: once I get into dark water territory (where I no longer can see the bottom), that’s when I start to freak out a bit, and my own claustrophobia begins to set in. That being said, there’s a lot to 47 Meters Down that really left me unnerved, particularly once our protagonists end up stuck at the bottom of the ocean floor, with the still darkness of the ocean encompassing them, and no way to tell whether or not a shark is headed their way.
Not only did it tap into my very own worst fears, but I really enjoyed how relentless things get in 47 Meters Down once the proverbial poop hits the fan for both Mandy Moore and Claire Holt, and I tip my hat to co-writer/director Johannes Roberts for creating a compelling adventure/horror hybrid that makes for an entertaining summer popcorn movie.
47 Meters Down follows sisters Lisa (Moore) and Kate (Holt) on vacation to Mexico for a little sibling bonding. We find out that Lisa’s boyfriend has just left her for being “too boring,” and she’s looking to shake things up in her life. After meeting two potential suitors (played by Yani Gellman and Santiago Segura), the girls decide to go with them on a shark cage expedition, where they’d be submerged alongside everyone’s favorite oceanic predators for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The guys head into the water first, and everything goes great, but once Lisa and Kate get into the cage and the water, their line breaks, and their safety cage rapidly descends to the bottom of the ocean, leaving them stranded over 150 feet below the surface with limited air and not much hope for survival.
As mentioned, what worked the best for me in 47 Meters Down was Roberts’ ability to make a film setting that’s so wide open feel so damned claustrophobic, to the point where a few times I felt my hands getting clammy. The sharks are great, too, but I loved how for most of the film, I spent a good amount of time fixated on the darkness around Lisa and Kate, waiting and wondering when the next hungry shark would show up. Also, kudos to Dimension for going back and adding to their VFX budget for the sharks in 47 Meters Down once they realized they were going to release this project theatrically, because the extra money pays off. The creatures look fantastic, and leave a menacing impression whenever they’re on screen.
The script itself is clunky at times, but I thought both Moore and Holt were great in 47 Meters Down, and I was wholly invested in seeing their characters try and survive the horrific ordeal they’ve been thrown into. Matthew Modine (Full Metal Jacket, Stranger Things) also shows up as Taylor, the captain of the boat that’s heading up the shark cage activities, and while he’s not given a ton to do, Modine’s a welcome presence here all the same (even if his character makes some really dumb decisions—but it wouldn’t be a horror movie if he didn’t, I suppose).
As a whole, for those of you who are into shark-related entertainment (especially with “Shark Week” kicking off next month), you should enjoy 47 Meters Down. There’s some really fun, gnarly moments (Severed heads! Shark bites that will have you squirming!), but the real terror-filled moments for me involved what we couldn’t see, instead of what we could, and I really appreciated how well Roberts used his underwater setting to his advantage. An ambitiously made thrill ride that truly had me holding my breath at times, 47 Meters Down may not be a “perfect movie,” but it’s a perfectly fun cinematic experience all the same. I highly recommend seeing this one on the big screen to really get the impact of what Roberts accomplishes here visually.
Movie Score: 3.5/5