47 Metres Down Review
Many of us have heard the theories about Jaws and how it is not really about a shark at all. Watergate, atom bombs and sexual predators are just some of the many ideas thrown up in the air. Spielberg, of course, is having none of it and as expected continues to play a straight bat. 47 Metres Down (aka In the Deep) is the latest addition to the shark sub-genre and surprisingly shares a lot in common with Jaws in that it too is not about a shark. The only problem being, it isn't really about much else either.
Before we head down into the murky depths of the ocean, we meet sisters Lisa (Mandy Moore) and Kate (Claire Holt) holidaying out in Mexico. Lisa is trying to get over breaking up with her long-term partner who wanted out because he saw her as boring. Kate is determined to bring her sister out of her shell and after a night out on the tiles where they meet a couple of guys, she has the brightest of ideas: to get up close and personal with the local sharks in an iron cage.
Oddly enough, the first act is possibly the most memorable part of the film, which is not ideal when the rest of the time is spent in the depths of the deep blue. Moore and Holt shouldn't expect any calls from the Academy later in the year but they do a decent enough job, even though the lack of backstory establishes them as friends more than blood relatives. As it's an exploitation film, all that really matters is their archetypal personalities are made clear enough - Lisa is reserved and Kate outgoing - before we get down to business.
Matthew Modine is captain of the rust bucket taking them out to sea and one look at the rickety cage being used to take them under would have any sane person scouring the horizon in search of land. But down they go and sure enough the cage untethers, sending the sisters plummeting down to the ocean floor. With a school of sharks waiting to swoop in for a snack and their tanks running low on oxygen, Lisa's ex wouldn't dream of calling her boring now.
What becomes apparent very quickly is that despite asking the audience to imagine being stuck in this same predicament (unable to swim to safety for fear of being eaten by sharks or succumbing to the bends), the scuba masks get in the way of the drama. Close-ups of their facial expressions are rare and since the film is more about the perils of scuba diving than it is about shark attacks, their plight remains a distant one. The great whites are largely conspicuous by their absence, with more time spent panicking about nitrogen bubbles seeping into their brains (the bends) and their depleting levels of oxygen.
Where there are moments of tension ripe for development, writer/director Johannes Roberts either seems unable to exploit them, or has no interest in doing so. He does pull out an interesting idea that changes the entire context of the final act, before doubling back to eliminate the twist entirely, making you wonder why he even bothered in the first place. Even as a popcorn B-movie, 47 Metres Down fails to offer the basic levels of excitement expected of it and instead lacks any real bite and sense of depth.