47 Meters Down [Review by SpecialK]
June 2017, apparently.
I had high hopes for 47 Meters Down, and I still argue I had good reason to. For starters, Mandy Moore, a throwback favorite, is the star. A beautiful, down-to-earth, second-career actress who is actually not half bad at acting (especially when off-screen—sorry Mandy). And come on, sharks? Forty plus years after Jaws, we pretty much know by now exactly how to use our favorite fearsome fish to build the suspense.
Then for me there was this whole other layer of anticipation. I’ve always been fascinated by what goes on below the water’s surface, ever since I spent my childhood’s Independence Days fishing with my family in northern Michigan. Sitting in that little boat on a massive lake, it felt crazy to me that there was a whole world right below my seat that I’d never get to see.
But although it throws together the same ingredients used in last summer’s The Shallows (girls in bathing suits, huge sharks, bloody gore, beachy scenery), 47 Meters Down fails to deliver a dish we can sink our teeth into.
The premise really is beyond simple: a pair of sisters is diving in a shark cage when the cable snaps and they drop—you guessed it—47 meters down to the ocean floor. Getting back to the surface is complicated by the 25-foot sharks swirling around them, and they have no idea how to evade the predators and make it to safety without getting decompression sickness, or the bends.
But the film goes wrong in so many ways. First, a half-hearted attempt at character development. The filmmakers try to weave in some backstory about Mandy Moore’s character taking this trip to prove to her ex that she’s not the boring girl he dumped. Although they probably throw this in to make her seem vulnerable and relatable, that whole “I did it all for a boy” theme really irks me.
Next, a Christmas tree of a plot. The characters have to jump through far too many complicated hoops (only half of which seem to make scientific sense—and I’m not even a diver) just to get to the surface. Looking back on it, the filmmakers probably toss on all this tinsel in order to stretch one moment of horror into a full-length feature film. Well, it doesn’t work. Too many forced obstacles and not enough sharks.
Finally, a failed attempt at acting—sorry again, Mandy. I imagine that sound quality isn’t great when shooting a whole film underwater, so that naturally means a lot of ADR—automated dialogue replacement, when words delivered on set get replaced by studio-recorded lines. Unfortunately for Ms. Moore, this layer of complexity seems to have pushed this role just a bit too far out of her league. Let’s just say that it’s hard to really be caught up in the suspense of a moment set a few dozen fathoms below sea level when I can picture the protagonist over-acting the words from the comfort of a studio.
Le sigh. Can’t we just get a straightforward shark-filled suspense film? Here’s a sentence I never thought I’d say: Come back, Blake Lively!
I will admit, the film boasts a few terrifying moments that effectively focus on the massive size of these great white beasts, the terror of the unknown blackness of the ocean’s depths, and the sense of all hope of survival dwindling away. There’s even a (pretty predictable) twist that’s halfway decent. But unfortunately, these moments do nothing to salvage this shipwreck of a film.
SpecialK Verdict: Go ahead and leave 47 Meters Down at the deepest depths of your to-do list this summer. You won’t miss much.
47 Meters Down opens Friday, June 16.
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