47 Meters Down has sharks, and sometimes that's good enough
As moviegoers, our demands are simple and few. And in the summertime, we demand just two things: Big-budget blockbusters as far as the eye can see and one or two disposable guilty-pleasure B-movies. If sharks are involved, all the better. Last year around this time, a bikini-clad Blake Lively rang the dinner bell in the giddily preposterous, The Shallows. Was it a good movie? Not especially. But, by God, it worked. And then some. Now, like lifeless-eyed predators following the scent of chum, we arrive at 47 Meters Down. And if it doesn’t quite jolt all of the shlock pleasure centers of The Shallows, it more or less gets the job done (especially if you’re handing out bonus points for a title that traffics in the metric system).
Mandy Moore, the quote-unquote star here, plays Lisa — an overly cautious young woman on a relaxing vacation in Mexico with her younger sister, Kate (Pretty Little Liars’ Claire Holt). Lisa’s boyfriend has just dumped her because she was too boring and safe (Oh, let’s just say it, she’s a drip). Kate, on the other hand, is a free spirit, a wild child. She has no problem chatting up strangers at a bar and making out with them. Lisa wants to be more like her—mainly because, in a retro plot point that could only be devised by male screenwriters, she thinks it might win back her ex, who sounds like a jackass. But that’s neither here nor there. After meeting a couple of cute local guys during a night of partying, the foursome makes a date for the following day to go cage diving in waters infested with Great White sharks.
This is, of course, a terrible idea. But B-movies wouldn’t exist without dumb people making dumb decisions. So, before you can say “You’re gonna need a bigger boat”, the double-daters are climbing aboard a rust-bucket boat captained by Matthew Modine, speaking Spanish and sporting salty stubble and a bandana like Robert Shaw’s Quint crossed with Louden Swain from Vision Quest. He’s also got a shark’s grin of his own. ‘He’s a bad guy,” you say to yourself. Only you don’t say it to yourself because it’s so damn obvious. But here’s the thing: he’s not a villain. Which gives you some idea of all of the potentially tantalizing ideas that were left on the table by director Johannes Roberts and his co-writer Ernest Riera. This will not be one of those movies that has clever twists or subtle character motivations or wild double-crosses or surprises of any kind. It’s just a lean and mean (and mostly un-gorey) shark thriller clocking in at an efficient and slightly threadbare 89 minutes.
As Modine and his first mate ladle out scoops of bloody fish guts to attract a feeding frenzy of 25-footers, Lisa and Kate chastely shimmy into wet suits, don scuba gear, and lower themselves into a rusty cage to go eye to eye with nature’s killing machines. But, naturally, the winch snaps and down they go – 47 meters down to be precise – to the bottom of the ocean. Running low on air and scared out of their wits, the sisters make one boneheaded move after another (seriously, banging on the cage’s bars?!). But despite the barebones premise, Roberts manages to cough up just enough tense, nail-biting moments while the clock is ticking – even if he cheaps out a bit on the shark stuff. What follows won’t make anyone forget about Jaws (or Deep Blue Sea, or Open Water, or The Shallows for that matter). But as far as cheap warm-weather junk food goes, it will suffice. It will have to. B–