Director: Johannes Roberts
Writers: Johannes Roberts, Ernest Riera
Stars: Mandy Moore, Claire Holt, Matthew Modine
Nothing beats a summer popcorn movie. Like that bucket of delicious, empty caloric Iowa kernel covered in processed glory, 47 Meters Down is as palatable and junky. Now you may see that as damning this latest Mandy Moore movie (didn’t see that casting) with faint praise, but movies like 47 Meters Down are a throwback to true summer fun in a world of superheroes and franchise galore. Is the movie flawed? Absolutely. But is it worth your time in a theater before literally being reduced in size to your on-demand viewing cell phone? Indeed, it is.
Claire Holt and Mandy Moore play two sisters vacationing in an all-inclusive Mexican resort, where pristine beaches and beautiful locals dominate the landscape. Moore’s Lisa and Holt’s Kate appear normal, drinking in the sun like a poolside margarita, until Lisa reveals that she is splitting from her longtime boyfriend for a seemingly childish reason: she is no longer fun and exciting (as if she’s a last generation XBOX…)
Kate seizes on this moment to do what most would do: Cheer up the afflicted with alcohol and those aforementioned locals. A solid night of partying leads to the following day, with Kate and Lisa – along with their new Mexican beaus - agreeing to a caged dive in hopes of viewing the elusive Great White shark. The rest of the premise is spoiled in the trailer, with the young sisters enduring a flaw in the line’s mechanism that sinks them 47 meters below the surface.
Movies like this don’t necessarily offer anything new to the “shark killer” genre, if you will. It is easy to compare everything to Jaws, but I won’t do that here. What makes 47 Meters Down work is clever directing, claustrophobic settings, and better-than-expected acting by our two stars. This game of survival is quite visceral, reminding viewers that certain depths of the ocean – whether it is darkness or a risk of getting “the bends,” when too much nitrogen gets into the blood – can be an ominous place. Remove the blood-hungry sharks and there is still a story here.
What does run the risk of growing tiresome is the notion that a pretty white woman needs to escape to Mexico to “find herself,” only to, well...find herself escaping a shark, a silly metaphor that her perceived existential crisis is rubbish when staring down pencil-length teeth. That was essentially the story of last year’s summer-sleeper hit, The Shallows, starring Blake Lively.
Still, for those willing to excuse this recycled plot device and simply escape to the theater, 47 Meters Down is the perfect escape for you, the audience, as you hope Lisa and Kate can make their own escape in the confines of everyone’s nightmare.
Eric Dinsmore | Twitter: @dinsmorality