The Surface Level Entertainment of ’47 Meters Down’ (FILM REVIEW)

Shark attack movies hit this bizarre sweet spot of dumb and fun. There’s not much more to the genre than meets the eye, and what there is has already been done before. The benefit to this is you basically know what you’re getting into before you see the movie, and 47 Meters Down is no exception.

This is bare bones shark bait, promising all the well-trod thrills of seeing someone mauled by nature’s greatest sea-predator. It’s nothing you haven’t already seen before, and nowhere near as well done as (most of) its predecessors, but it knows what needs to do and then (more or less) accomplishes it.

What sets this movie apart is its setting, 47 meters below the surface of the ocean, inside a shark cage that has broken off of its ship with two tourists trapped inside. That threat of imminent drowning mixed with the threat of being eaten makes for a claustrophobic, damned if you do situation that, god help me, adds some genuine thrills to this by the numbers film.

Mandy Moore and Claire Holt play sisters Lisa and Kate, on vacation in Mexico following Lisa’s breakup with…you know what? It doesn’t matter. They’re sisters, trapped in a cage, under the ocean, with sharks.

And by god, in that aim 47 Meters Down is a success. Despite its dumb attempts at making you care about its characters with rote, white problems, the film manages to pull a few thrills and frights out of its 89-minute run time. The looming threat of oxygen depletion is an intriguing addition to the shark genre, bringing in a greater sense of intense urgency to otherwise standard fare.

Sure, we could quibble, but that feels meaningless. At the end of the day there are only a few questions that need to be asked. Do sharks attack? (Yes.) Is oxygen a problem? (Yes.) Does it scare? (Kind of, sometimes.)

It’s not a great movie by any definition, but it’s good enough. That seems to be precisely what director/co-writer Johannes Roberts was striving for. His script seems to understand that there’s no room for this game to be changed, and he blessedly doesn’t try to. Along the way, he works in some genuinely intense moments that, while not surprising in any way, manage to get the job done.

Sometimes that’s all that a movie needs to do. 47 Meters Down is what it is, and nothing more. There’s something almost refreshing about that. It’s surface level entertainment and provides that well enough to occupy your senses for an hour and half. Memorable? Not really. But so what? You can grab a soda, eat some popcorn, and turn your brain off for a bit. Along the way, you can be at least mildly entertained. That may not make for great cinema, but not everything needs to be.

47 Meters Down is now playing in theaters everywhere.

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