Film Review: 47 Meters Down

Vacationing siblings trade sunning by the beach for some underwater sightseeing in this stripped-down thriller that will do nothing to rehabilitate the reputation of sharks.
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Big sister Lucy (Mandy Moore) is a natural-born pessimist with serious risk intolerance—"no gain" is just fine with her if it means avoiding the pain part. Younger sib Kate (Claire Holt, of TV's “The Vampire Diaries” and “Pretty Little Liars”) is a free-spirited adventurer who's persuaded Lucy to join her on a footloose jaunt to Mexico. Sunshine, frozen drinks, beaches and cute guys competing for the role of Mr. Right Now at a nice, safe resort—what's not to love? Especially when a couple of those guys offer to hook the girls up with an off-piste experience: an ocean dive in a shark cage, courtesy of weathered and scruffy but kind-of-cute (in an old-guy way) charter-boat captain Taylor (Matthew Modine). It'll be fun, and think of the awesome pictures they can post on their Facebook pages…especially Lucy, whose caddish boyfriend thinks she's boring.

Preceded by an ad campaign that makes clear how much fun it isn't going to be when said cage plunges to the ocean floor (frayed cable, not that it matters), 47 Meters Down is, of course, all about the sharks, the ocean's all-purpose bogey men. No personality, no motivation, no expression…just flat, dead eyes and gaping maws studded with bandsaw teeth; Halloween's Michael Myers has nothing on them. And well, you know the rest.

Which is not to say 47 Meters Down isn't entertaining, just that it's best approached with reasonable expectations. It sets up the story pins and knocks them down with admirable efficiency (though the director's possessory onscreen credit, Johannes Roberts' 47 Meters Down, is a little presumptuous): bonding, one dumb move, hellish consequences with a primal kick (Who isn't afraid of drowning or suffocating?), a desperate fight for survival. Check, check and check.

Former teen pop-idol Moore (currently on the hit TV show “This Is Us”) and Holt deliver creditable performances, even while spending most of the film in abbreviated swimming gear—to Roberts' credit, the camera doesn't linger lasciviously on pretty little backsides. And though the actresses don't have much pre-WTF/OMG! time to establish their relationship, they manage to convey an affecting low-key rapport that makes their predicament just that little bit more fraught.

Rescued by Entertainment Studios Motion Pictures from a direct-to-DVD release after The Shallows gobbled up last summer's shark-attack niche (and it was still called In the Deep), 47 Meters Down is a nifty little summer scare movie that looks great on the big screen and delivers a timely warning that it's never safe to go back in the water.

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