Hollywood marketing departments are sleight-of-hand geniuses when it comes to putting a movie’s most profitable foot forward. They’ll play with your senses and show you a quick-cut trailer set to the latest emo-remix of an 80’s classic song in the hopes that you’ll buy tickets, some popcorn, and a giant soda.
47 Meters Down was marketed as a killer shark movie, and while I wouldn’t have bothered to pay first-run movie ticket prices to see it anyway, I took a look at the poster and decided I probably wouldn’t ever watch it.
And then along comes my wife. She knows that one of my all-time top five favorite movies is JAWS, so she thought I’d be interested. She also did this to me when she suggested that we watch The Shallows last year. Meh. That movie was fun to watch because of reasons but the shark angle was a let-down.
So here we go again, right? Killer sharks! Whoopee-fuckin’-doo. Hey, I’m impressed. There are gold standards for all of our movie-watching tastes and I consider JAWS to be one of the all-time greats. Nothing can ever live up to it, both for personal reasons and for generally agreed upon reasons. Steven Spielberg overcame monumental difficulties in bringing his killer shark movie to completion and it shows in the craftmanship and care of the final product.
But enough about JAWS, because 47 Meters Down, thankfully, is not about killer sharks. Well, it’s not only about killer sharks. It has killer sharks in it, but they are there only to provide one more challenge to overcome when sisters become trapped in a cage on the ocean floor.
Mild spoilers may follow but I won’t give away the genuinely good ending nor any of the major thrills.
Lisa (Mandy Moore) and Kate (Claire Holt) are vacationing in Baja California and decide to take a chance on two Mexicans that they met the previous night in a bar. Dicey! The two men suggest that the women follow them on a kinda-sorta-guided tour of shark-infested waters where they’ll all be able to scuba dive in a cage and take close up pictures of Great White sharks (Carcharodon carcharias). Lisa has never done anything remotely dangerous but is anxious to prove to herself that she’s not a stick-in-the-mud.
Long story short, Matthew Modine fucks up and the ladies end up stuck in the anti-shark cage, on the ocean floor, with their Old El Paso scuba tanks rapidly running out of air.
This is where the movie moved from having my curiosity to having my attention. I am a strong swimmer but I’ve never been scuba diving for a reason: as much as I can be, I want to be the one in control of my air supply when I’m in the water.
JABBERJAW says, “Hey, girl. Would you believe that me and my buddies aren’t your biggest problem?”
Being able to think under pressure may be the most unrefined aspect of the modern human’s life. Everything is so easy for us now. Click this, tap that, I don’t owe you fuckers anything, etc. But imagine being stuck underwater with a dwindling air supply. The movie made me sit up reflexively and try to draw a deep breath at this point.
Lisa and Kate are left with their wits alone to save their lives.
To return briefly to JAWS, killer sharks are too easy a villain for screenwriters to employ while completely ignoring large chunks of scientific data. I feel like JAWS, and to a lesser extent JAWS 2, gave us pretty much everything we need in terms of this massive fish.
Yet here again, sharks are used as slasher movie killers that behave as if they have an agenda and a will to kill. Also in the slasher villain vein, they can be repulsed by the most inane methods in order to allow our heroines to escape.
Looking at the technical side of things, the acting is capable and I commend Mandy Moore and Claire Holt for excellent performances where they have to constantly scream and hyperventilate.
The cinematography is excellent. The ocean floor in this movie is truly frightening: a dark place where humans should not be, but our heroines must travel it alone, one to save the other.
47 Meters Down is well worth a couple hours of your life, especially since you can watch it on your terms, home theater or mobile device.
Adios, amigos y amiguitas!