On vacation in Mexico, Lisa (Mandy Moore) and Kate (Claire Holt) are convinced by some new friends to try cage diving to get a close look at some of the Great White Sharks that roam the ocean at their hotels doorstep. After disaster strikes their cage sinks to the depth of 47 meters and the pair must figure out how to survive, while the crew above must figure out how to rescue them.
Mandy Moore (A walk to remember, License to Wed) takes the lead with a pretty stock standard performance here, while she does her best you can rule out any award nominations. Clare Holt (The Vampire Diaries, Aquarius) produces a similar performance; but given the nature of the film both actresses can be forgiven. Once in the water, aside from a bit of swimming, their physical performances are not significant. It’s their vocal range that is important, with talking, yelling and screaming being the main feature of the film. Matthew Modine as Captain Taylor is as cruisy as ever and provides some capable support, but on a personal level, I find it hard to imagine him as a boatie.
The film itself succeeds in several areas.
The directing. Johannes Roberts (Storage 24, the other side of the door) does a great job with the script. He has put the movie together skilfully and has set the pacing very well. Two girls trapped in a cage underwater with the occasional shark. On the surface (or should I say under it?) it sounds pretty boring, right? But with all of the threats that Lisa and Kate face while down there make for just enough tension to keep you on the edge of your seat.
The script. Roberts and Ernest Riera have formulated a story that is not as ridiculous as it seems, cage diving is a pretty popular thing and accidents happen out at sea all the time. A cable snapping is a perfectly plausible explanation for how the girls end up in that situation. The greatest aspect is that the sharks are not the only threat. While they are a focus of sorts, there’s a whole spate of things to consider and the script plays on each one. The lack of oxygen keeps it very interesting and the film makers use this aspect to their advantage.
The score (or lack thereof) is so very subtle. It’s absent in just the right moments, Tom Hajdu and Andy Milburn aka tomandandy do a wonderful job. The two have a lot of experience in horror/thriller films (The Mothman Prophecies, The Hills Have Eyes, The Strangers) and their experience helps add tension to the film.
Being a horror/thriller fan I was a little disappointed at the lack of gore, but I do believe the cinematography was done this way for a reason. We are supposed to see what the main characters see at that depth, which is not a whole lot.
47 Meters Down is an original take on a recently overused theme – protagonists trapped in a tight space by a threat they cannot see. Films such as the recent Aaron Taylor-Johnson starrer The Wall have tried and failed with the concept but this attempt keeps it fresh. Not since Joel Schumacher’s Phone Booth have I been so entertained by so little. I look forward to the sequel, also to be directed by Johannes Roberts – 48 meters down.
Director: Johannes Roberts
Cast: Mandy Moore, Claire Holt, Matthew Modine
Writers: Johannes Roberts, Ernest Riera