Ever since Jaws, there’s been the desire to thrill audiences with crazed, human-hunting sharks singling out victims in the water. We know sharks can bite in reality (and even kill), but sadly, since the 1975 Spielberg classic, none of the shark films have been as effective, including the Jaws sequels. These all become more and more laughable, to the point of absurdity like Sharknado.
The only film that began capturing the ‘reality’ of being in the water with one of the deep’s greatest hunters, and came close to Jaws for sheer terror, was Open Water (2003). There was believability to it that events portrayed ‘could’ happen – in fact it was based on a true story. The beauty of this film was you never got to see the crazed shark attacking. It was all below the waterline.
Last year’s Blake Lively adrenaline fest, The Shallows, got average reviews and revived our fear of Great Whites targeting us. 47 Metres Down, like Open Water and The Shallows, plays on a realistic situation you ‘could’ possibly find yourself in, especially in the middle of the Summer season. The latest film is surprisingly effective too, and cleverly throws enough curve balls to keep you entertained for the 89 mins, but doesn’t go quite far enough with the shark menacing.
Two sisters, Lisa and Kate (played by Mandy Moore and Claire Holt respectively) are on holiday in Mexico, with Lisa trying to get over a breakup back home. Befriending two lads, they decide to go on a cage-diving expedition to get up close to sharks. The problem is the equipment and cage supplied by the operator (hippie Taylor, played by Matthew Modine) is less than safe. After the boys’ turn, and the cage the sisters are now in plunges 47 metres to the ocean floor. As their oxygen begins to run out, the sisters must find a way of communicating with the surface and get rescued, while Great Whites circle them.
The setup and process in which the girls become shark bait is highly believable – this reviewer experienced faulty diving gear while in St Lucia. Writer-director Johannes Roberts plays on this possible scenario – being exposed to dubious practices as a tourist, challenging you to think what you would do in the sisters’ unfortunate situation? The filmmaker also shoots within murky surroundings, not the crystal-clear blue expanse other productions favour. This heightens the fear of ‘what’s out there’ even more.
While you will be covering your face in anticipation of an attack, squinting with one eye through your hands, the problem lies with some far-fetched parts. There are also not enough shark frights in the run-up to the next attack – ironic, considering the subject matter. As far as stretching reality, one of the sisters goes off to find a much-needed bit of kit sent down by the boat, over the edge of a ocean-floor ledge with a significant drop, and still manages to find her way back to the damaged cage, without consequence, for example.
Indeed, the premise is, after a certain time when the oxygen is near gone, so how many of situations the sisters are in are actually happening, and how many are delusions? This is where Roberts’s film gets very intriguing. It’s a shame it didn’t played on this more to heighten the disorientation at 47 metres below the surface, and elevate it out of the vanilla-acted, B-movie outcome it lapses into. It could have been a memorable psychological thriller and upped the game in this genre. The ending does have you questioning, is this really happening? Hence the plot’s main problem lies with whether 47 Metres Down is meant to be just a shark-menacing film (like Jaws), or a psychological nail-biter about disorientation (much like Open Water), with the big fish just another peril to contend with? This is where things feel a little inconsistent.
That said, 47 Metres Down will have you cowering in your seat, muttering “no, no, no, don’t do it” to either one of the women’s actions. With its twists and turns, the film does what it intends to do; make you think twice about cage diving with sharks on your holiday, or at least, demanding to see the operator’s certificates, licences and equipment before stepping onto the boat, let along the into the shark feeding cage!