Directed by: Johannes Roberts
Notable cast: Sophie Nélisse, Corinne Foxx, Brianne Tju, Sistine Stallone
Shark movies have a long and storied history in the world of horror. Arguably the first-ever blockbuster was Jaws, the most famous of them, and our fine finned friends have remained a popular film antagonist since. I never saw the original 47 Meters Down, so I really had no idea what I should be expecting in this film, plus the marketing has been a bit on the underwhelming side, so I went into this film with deeply lowered expectations, and apparently that’s the way to see it, because I really had quite a good time with this. Shark films tend to either be silly and campy or attempt something a bit more serious and grounded… though damned if I can think of a shark movie that used the latter approach and was worth watching, post-Jaws. This movie definitely doesn’t attempt anything in the vicinity of serious, luckily.
47 Meters Down: Uncaged starts out with our main protagonists leaving school. Mia (Nélisse) is pulling herself out of a fountain, as a set of bullies mocks her. The bullies ask Sasha (Foxx), who’s just walking by why her sister is such a loser, and Sasha tells them she has no sister. Through fairly clunky exposition we learn that Mia’s mother had died a few years prior and her father remarried. Also, we learn that her father Grant (Northern Exposure’s John Corbett, a reference that certainly ages me) is a professional cave diver, setting up lights for archeologists at a recently discovered underwater Mayan ruin. The girls are surprised with tickets to a glass-bottom boat great white shark tour that they must attend together as a bonding experience. We get to the boat and Mia’s bullies are there too. Sasha’s friends, fortunately, show up in a car promising a better time with them and it doesn’t take much to convince Mia to go. This is a movie that really starts out sprinting, so it took you longer to read that description than the movie actually spends on any of this, and that’s much to its benefit. The actual horror set up is much more entertaining. The girls decide to dive into a different entrance of the same Mayan ruins that Mia’s dad is working on and in the course of the dive things go inevitably wrong. They accidentally knock over a pillar and lose each other in the silt that gets kicked up, and even worse, when they do manage to reconvene, we meet our shark for the first time and in the effort to escape it, the girls’ only exit gets blocked off.
This is a really good setup for a couple of reasons. Similar to Crawl earlier this summer, this movie understands that the creatures aren’t enough, so this movie plays on a few more fears for good measure. The young women are stuck underwater, with ever draining oxygen tanks, plus it’s dark, claustrophobic and the architecture is confusing. This is actually a set up that would work without the sharks and still potentially be a tense thrill ride. Other real strong things about this movie include the acting, by and large, especially from our principle four ladies. Sylvester Stallone and Jaimie Foxx’s daughters, in their first movie, are both notably solid, and I’m hoping for long careers for both of them. The effects are also really good, and much of this film was shot practically, underwater, and it shows. The entire budget is on the screen here.
I’ve been incredibly complimentary so far, and I did like this movie, but it is by no means flawless. I already mentioned some really blatant and poor exposition, which continues throughout the movie. It would be too much to say the action is poorly shot, but it is frantic and muddled, and there were many times I was unsure of which character I was following, as the costuming wasn’t distinct enough. Also, as good of a time as it is, it never elevates its concept and it unfortunately never manages to work out a scenario to add more victims into the fray. That seems like a petty, bloodthirsty complaint, I know, but everything about how the movie plays out begs for more mayhem or for the movie to have actually been more serious. Which leads to my inevitable, although admittedly personal, complaint that at a PG-13 rating everything that is cool and does work about the movie is muted where it could’ve been bombastic and memorable. This could have been another Piranha 3D, an incredibly fun way to spend 90 minutes. Instead, it’s just a moderately fun time.
As it stands, this is breezy, decent entertainment at the movies albeit one I won’t recall almost as soon as I send this review in, and by that standard alone it’s impossible to recommend for more than a rental, and maybe a cheap rental at that. But if one goes in with properly set and mitigated expectations, it’s not difficult to lose yourself in 47 Meters Down: Uncaged for its runtime.
Written By Sean Caylor