Small Scale, Big Scares: Our Review of ’47 Meters Down’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - June 22, 2017
Small Scale, Big Scares: Our Review of ’47 Meters Down’

It’s a commonly held misconception that cinematic spectacle and thrills require a big scale and even a bigger budget.  While no one will ever mistake something like 47 Meters Down for any kind of auteur genre cinema, it’s still a surprising amount of fun that hits the right buttons and manages to straddle the line between dumb and fun.

Lisa (Mandy Moore) is ready for adventure while on vacation in Mexico as she fresh in the middle of a rough breakup with her boyfriend for being too ‘boring’. Even still, she needs a little extra persuasion when her daring sister Kate (Claire Holt) suggests they go shark diving with some locals. Once underwater in a protective cage, Lisa and Kate catch a once in a lifetime, face-to-face look at majestic Great Whites. However their worst fears are realized and the cage breaks away from their boat, they find themselves plummeting to the bottom of the seabed, too deep to radio for help without making themselves vulnerable to the savage sharks and their oxygen supplies rapidly dwindling.

While I couldn’t help but snicker during the opening credits when the title card of ‘Johannes Roberts’ 47 Meters Down’ hit the screen there’s no denying that this is a tight little thriller and in spite of some of the gaping logic holes and goofy moments it works a lot better than it really should crafting a few moments that will have you jumping out of your seats.

The similarities to last year’s The Shallows are admittedly unavoidable with the terror of women vs. shark this movie actually veers in a slightly different direction.  The effect shots are kept to a minimum and we only get some very quick and obscured shots of these giant sharks lurking in the ocean, so Roberts effectively plays on the dark and making the terror of what we can’t see much more effective then the big scary sharks with all their teeth.  While this is probably the biggest budget film that Roberts has ever had to play with, he smartly knows to keep the film in its wheelhouse; not trying to do too much to get us out of the moment and he’s certainly quite adept at setting the mood.  His script isn’t exactly strong in the dialogue department but it is economic and goes from point A to point B with no muss and just as little fuss.

With Mandy Moore riding the high of a hit TV show with This Is Us, her choices here make for an effective little piece of counter programming which is even deftly acknowledged by her character who is really just concerned about making sure that her butt looks cute in a wet suit.  Claire Holt is decent enough next to her as they play off of each other while trapped on the ocean floor and while Matthew Modine may have missed a golden opportunity to slide into a ‘Capt Quint’ type performance inspired by the ship captain in ‘Jaws’ he at least looks ready to turn it on should he need be.

High art this ain’t, and if you’ve ever gone scuba diving before the amount of stuff they get wrong will just drive you nuts but that being said 47 Meters Down actually has more entertainment value for the dollar than any other piece of ‘spectacle’ cinema playing in the IMAX or the AVX theatre at your local multiplex.

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David Voigt is a Toronto based writer with a problem and a passion for the moving image and all things cinema. Having moved from production to the critical side of the aisle for well over 10 years now at outlets like Examiner.com, Criticize This, Dork Shelf (Now That Shelf), to.Night Newspaper he’s been all across his city, the country and the continent in search of all the news and reviews that are fit to print from the world of cinema.
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