DIR: Johannes Roberts • WRI: Johannes Roberts, Ernest Riera • PRO: James Harris, Mark Lane • DOP: Mark Silk • ED: Martin Brinkler • DES: David Bryan • MUS: tomandandy • CAST: Mandy Moore, Claire Holt, Matthew Modine
Nothing is scarier in our world than the ocean. Forget about vampires, aliens, and ghosts; the ocean is what’s truly terrifying. With ninety percent of it totally unexplored the thought of what’s down there is enough to give the hardest horror fan shivers. 47 Metres Down attempts and mostly succeeds to scare and chill.
Sisters Lisa (Mandy Moore) and Kate (Claire Holt) are on holidays in Mexico. They make friends with some locals who convince them to go cage diving with them. Everything is going swimmingly until the winch breaks and the cage with Kate and Lisa in it plummets forty-seven metres to the ocean floor. Surrounded by sharks and running out of air, Kate and Lisa attempt to escape without getting eaten, drowning, or getting the bends.
47 Metres Down is far more successful than it should be. Seeing how Jaws was both the beginning and the end of the shark thriller, it’s strange how Johannes Roberts manages to create an exciting thriller with nothing more than water, a cage and CGI sharks. Roberts finds thrills in both the presence of the sharks and the lack of them. Two stand-out sequences include Lisa swimming out over a massive open trench with nothing but blackness below and a headlong rush for the surface lit only by a red flare as Great White Sharks attack the two women. This is where the film succeeds but where it fails is in its characters.
It’s hard to care about Lisa and Kate. Moore and Holt do their best in roles but are essentially scream queens. The terror of their desperate situation doesn’t elicit the “I hope they get out of this one” response – instead, it’s more “I’d hate it if that was me”. The characters are boring out of water and only slightly more interesting under it. The supporting cast, meanwhile, contribute basically nothing. For a man of his talents, Mathew Modine, as Captain Taylor, is surprisingly useless. Still, the thin characters can be forgiven once the gut-punching action scenes come into play.
The sound design is incredibly gruesome. The rip and crunch of a shark tearing through a human leg is enough to set people to wincing even without the visual. The beasts themselves are impressive for CGI fish, with their skin looking suitably rough and scarred. Soulless eyes pass by the camera constantly and the power of these underwater predators is made abundantly clear. The constant mishaps suffered by Kate and Lisa, although quite unrealistic, are enough to induce severe bouts of shaking and sweating in one’s cinema seat.
47 Metres Down is no Jaws but then no film ever has been or will be again. Though its characters are poorly fleshed out and the story is woefully far-fetched, Roberts’ film succeeds where countless other shark films have failed. It might not be this year’s best thriller but it’s one worth seeing.
15A (See IFCO for details)
47 Metres Down is released 21st July 2017