47 Meters DownReviewed By Jay Seaver
Posted 06/16/17 14:00:39
There are times when it feels like "47 Meters Down" was patched together as best it could be around the days when certain resources were available. Like, the pitch was good and the filmmakers really thought they'd have the script in better order by the time they had the use of the tank needed to shoot it, and then maybe they could cover the gaps with visual effects, or when re-recording the dialogue, but they never had everything they needed, and as a result, they're never able to build enough up around the gem of a decent idea to make a particularly good picture. It likely didn't actually happen that way, but if not, things are worse, and the bits that seem bent out of shape to cover something else are just poorly done.A moderately clever opening scene introduces the audience to Lisa (Mandy Moore) and her sister Kate (Claire Holt); though Lisa had originally planned to go on her Mexican vacation with her boyfriend Stuart, he has left her, leaving Kate to pick up the extra ticket. They meet a couple of guys, who tell them about a charter that will take them out to view sharks from inside a cage, and Kate convinces her more sensible sister to go for it, even though she has no scuba experience. The cage is only supposed to be lowered to 5 meters, but comes loose from the boat and drops to the ocean floor, and even if one could just swim straight up without succumbing to the bends, there's at least one shark in the water.
Once Kate and Lisa have reached the titular depth, you can see why someone would go for the pitch of a real-time thriller with two sisters trapped in a dive cashew on the ocean floor with rapidly diminishing air and sharks above; director Johannes Roberts and co-writer Ernest Riera present the characters and audience with what looks like a puzzle to solve with escape seeming tantalizingly close. The trouble is, in part, that the puzzle-solving aspect is never quite as satisfying as it should be; victories and setbacks both seem to leave the women back at the same spot, without even the illusion of change. The actual action is choppy and cropped as if zoomed in or recut for a PG-13 much of the time, and the effect is much the same as it was for Shark Week a few years ago - scenes that should end with an exclamation point of some sort instead merit a question mark. A little honest gore would go a long way. There are one or two impressive moments where the audience sees what Roberts and company are capable of, good little bits of action that were likely storyboarded in detail well before there was any script.
Sadly, the character moments that could buoy this sort of picture a bit in between the more active sequences are boring from the start. Lisa is established as not being as adventurous as Kate, but it's not a difference that Roberts and the cast are ever able to truly exploit; there's not even much of a story arc where their individual personalities serve as challenges or secret weapons. At least Mandy Moore and Claire Holt come across as generally likable and play off each other well enough, though they're done few favors by having to play much of the movie in walkie-talkie-equipped helmets that, while built to show their faces, often still cover a bit too much, making their words feel disembodied. They've at least got more going for them here than Matthew Modine, doing just enough work to pick up the "and" credit as the boat's captain, or the three guys so interchangeable that when Kate is told Javier is on his way to help, most will have a hard time remembering which one he was.
Worst and most unforgivable is the way the end fizzles; it's one of the worst examples of the "one more gotcha" impulse I've ever seen. Sure, the audience has had a fair amount of clunky exposition warning them that this might be coming, but a good thriller is more than just a collection of twists and threats averted or fulfilled; it builds to something emotionally, and even taking how 47 Meters Down meanders and doesn't really have thematic pushes to give its characters, the note this one chooses to end on is ridiculous. Why the heck would you undercut the exciting bit from just a couple minutes before for something without any of the same satisfying forward motion? The surprise is not worth the price.It's the worst decision in a movie full of uninspired choices, letting the air out of something whose good bits might have kept it afloat. "47 Meters Down" has the basic idea for a good movie,but all too rarely finds the details that would make it actually work.
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