Writers: Johannes Roberts, Ernest Riera
Cast: Mandy Moore, Claire Holt, Matthew Modine
Running time: 89mins
What’s the story: Holidaying in Mexico, sisters Lisa and Kate (Moore and Holt) take a cage trip to view Great White sharks. But, the cage breaks, plummeting them to the ocean bed with one hour’s oxygen left and sharks gathering outside.
What’s the verdict: With Jaws, the modern “people vs. shark” movie broke the central tenet of showbiz and opened with a showstopper. But, this niche adventure-horror sub-genre can still chum something flavourful into the (m)ocean picture.
The best example of recent times is 2005’s Open Water. Purveyors of bite-fright flicks should also check out 2009’s The Reef and last year’s The Shallows.
47 Meters Down is shallower than these movies, but still offers worthwhile submerged suspense and pant-wetting moments.
Director Johannes Roberts (somewhat presumptuously placing his name above the movie title, a la John Carpenter) can shoot an efficient thriller. The inky blackness of the ocean conjures up a nightmare world literally like no other place on Earth.
Once on the sea bed, Roberts (and cinematographer Mark Silk) place stars Moore and Holt at the edges of the shot, so all that foreboding empty space allows the mind to go fishing for worst case scenarios. Sometimes nothing happens, other times (mostly) well-realised CGI Great White appear with particularly toothy grins.
Aware that a substantial chunk of the audience is going to be Mandy Moore maniacs, Roberts and co-writer Riera splice monster movie tropes with a romantic break-up subplot. This will float with certain audience demographics, although we confess it had us sometimes rooting for the big fishes.
Moore and Holt, seemingly doing a fair chunk of the underwater stuff themselves, are likeable enough to hope they survive their deep dive dilemma. The lean 89-minute run time tosses enough obstacles and lifelines at the pair that Roberts’ film doesn’t outstay its welcome.
Even if plot holes large enough to hurl a 29ft Great White through pepper the story. Not least of which is, why don’t the girls’ eardrums burst if they sink so far down? Or for first time scuba divers, they’re nifty at dealing with their kit in underwater high-pressure situations.
Radio mics in the leads’ helmets allow them to communicate with each other and ship’s captain Taylor (Modine, slumming it but lending grown-up professionalism). Yet, you can’t help wonder what a Jonathan Glazer or Alfonso Cuarón would have done with the story; it’s not beyond the realms of possibility to have 47 Meters Down play dialogue free once underwater.
But, those Moore fans want to hear her dulcet tones (while there’s no singing, she does give good scream) and this is aimed squarely at the popcorn munching Saturday night brigade.
A third act shift demonstrates there is ambition to do something different. The result is not fin-tastic. It ain’t Jawsome. But, this dumb monster fun swims along nicely, waving, not drowning.