Tag: 47 meters down

47 Meters Down: Uncaged

47 Meters Down: Uncaged (2019)
★★ / ★★★★

“47 Meters Down: Uncaged” is not unlike its predecessor in that attempting to survive a series of grizzly shark attacks is an indirect way of solving a personal crisis on land. Specifically, stepsisters Mia (Sophie Nélisse) and Sasha (Corinne Foxx) not only do not get along, they do not consider each other as sisters. This is established during the opening scene in which the former is bullied by schoolmates and the latter chooses to stand by with her friends in silence. Most of us will recognize immediately the story’s ultimate destination and so the journey there must be strong. On a few levels, it delivers. But it leaves plenty to be desired as a potent survival horror.

The movie is beautifully photographed, particularly the early underwater scenes that take place in the ancient Mayan city. Because the caves are unexplored for the most part, there is a certain creepiness in the solemn statues and obelisks, how corridors tend to get narrower the deeper one gets into the labyrinthine city. We even get to lay eyes on the catacombs, skeletons undisturbed for many decades. There is a sense of wonder and claustrophobia in these sequences which suggest that some thought and genuine care is put into picture instead of rehashing the same old scenario as the predecessor. It is apparent that this is not just a movie composed of jump scares involving sharks. Johannes Roberts co-writes (along with Ernest Riera) and directs both works; I detected a certain pride in making the work as good a genre piece can be.

But the characterization is a significant shortcoming. Aside from the superficial conflict between Mia and Sasha, we are never provided a genuine sense that they are family even during the later scenes when they finally learn to have each other’s backs. Perhaps it has something to do with the script, the fact that it never bothers to pause, to breathe, to allow its main players to connect. Once the scuba diving gear is on, it is all business—wonderful in theory if the material could find surprises, big and small, on a consistent basis. The work is fond of the following formula: new area to be explored, shark attack, panic and splashing about, escape. Once in a while an inconsequential character gets eaten (some gnarly deaths).

It should have taken a page from Jaume Collet-Serra’s “The Shallows.” In that film, although the script is barebones, it is so efficient in allowing the audience to understand how its character recognizes a problem and finds solutions. She is smart and resourceful. Early on in “Uncaged,” it is acknowledged that Mia is an experienced scuba diver. It is so disappointing that when the chips are down and the pressure is up, she, like the others, ends up panicking and screaming as if oxygen tanks would not run out of air. The previous “47 Meters Down” makes a point not to scream, breathe, or panic so much because every movement uses up oxygen. This fact is not brought up even once in this sequel. It’s Survival 101.

Is it unrealistic? A resounding “Yes!” But I enjoyed it enough, particularly the twist regarding the sharks. Since these creatures have been living in these caves for so long, surely they must have acquired abilities that typical sharks do not possess. Had there been a bit more research during the screenwriting stage, the level of creativity would have surged. Perhaps the characters struggling to survive against these sharks would have been forced to become more resourceful.

47 Meters Down

47 Meters Down (2017)
★★★ / ★★★★

Occasionally unintentionally funny, shark attack picture “47 Meters Down” offers a good time for those simply wishing to turn their brains off and watch a pair of American tourists attempting to avoid becoming fish food prior to being rescued. With a short running time of less than ninety minutes, it provides enough solid suspenseful moments and thrills even though it delivers exactly what is expected out of the sub-genre. In a movie like this, either one slowly pulls one’s limbs closer to one’s torso or one is bored by the usual beats.

The picture might have been improved upon had the screenplay by Johannes Roberts and Ernest Riera amplified the competition or tension between otherwise close sisters Lisa (Mandy Moore) and Kate (Claire Holt). There is a wonderful exchange, when both are forty-seven meters at the bottom of the sea, when Lisa admits to Kate that she often feels not good enough when they are compared side-by-side. Lisa is the elder, boring sister while Kate is the more exciting of the duo, one who gets the attention of all the boys without effort. Although a terrifying situation bringing people closer than ever is a standard move, it might have paved the way for deeper character development. Both Lisa and Kate are likable.

The shark attacks are swift, commanding a sense of urgency in an enclosed space or otherwise. Similar films tend to excel at one or the other. I enjoyed it most when either sibling decides to get out of the cage either to get signal for the transmitter so they can call for help or acquire a critical item for survival. One cannot help but to squint a little harder at the background due the possibility of the shark appearing right behind the heroine. At times certain familiar camera angles are utilized to create false alarms and we exhale from relief. But comfortable moments do not last long.

I found it rather impressive that the leads must act underwater for more than half the picture. Since their faces are covered with oxygen masks, they must express their emotions in other ways, such as employing body languages that are exactly right for the situation—while swimming—and providing a balance between subtlety and exaggeration in voice acting. More observant viewers will recognize these difficulties or challenges while others may simply ignore them altogether because it is a shark movie and it is supposedly all about the buckets of blood and body count.

“47 Meters Down,” directed by Johannes Roberts, provides a daring ending that is certain to divide viewers. Although it takes some scientific liberties, I enjoyed that it is willing to provide final ten minutes that is different, darkly comic, with a whiff of irony. Awful films within the sub-genre simply end in silence with no survivor, blood painting the screen red.