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47 Meters Down Review

By Lora Grady

Caged Meat

You know how it is when you're at the amusement park and you're excited to hit the monster roller coaster but the line's way too long or maybe the mega-coaster's closed for maintenance so you decide to check out the medium coaster instead? You're not expecting much, maybe a couple of unpredictable turns and a half-hearted shout or two. But something about the way this unassuming ride is engineered catches you by surprise, and even though it's a short trip you wind up with a pounding heart, short of breath, maybe even screaming a little? Well, "47 Meters Down" is kind of like that: it's not a big ticket attraction and at first glance it seems kind of silly, but if you settle in and go with it you may find the ride surprisingly entertaining.


There's really no improving on the pitch line for "47 Meters Down," so here it is: "Two sisters vacationing in Mexico are trapped in a shark cage at the bottom of the ocean." The sisters are Lisa (Mandy Moore, pulling an about-face from her star turn on This Is Us) and Kate (Claire Holt, The Vampire Diaries), who are tiring of poolside fun at their vacation resort and on the lookout for some excitement. Well, adventurous Kate is looking, and she goads the cautious Lisa into accompanying two cute local guys into shark-infested waters to go cage diving. Lisa's smarting from a recent breakup and looking to disprove her ex's assessment that she's "boring," so despite some foot-dragging she's ultimately on board.

Neither the decidedly rusty shark cage nor the battered old fishing boat that houses it are enough to dissuade the would-be adventurers, though Lisa's literally sick with nerves and has zero diving experience. But their host Captain Taylor (Matthew Modine, Stranger Things) delivers a crash course that provides enough of the basics to get Lisa in the water, and to clue the audience in on potential hazards when things start to go wrong.

You know going in that the girls end up in the cage, and the cage ends up on the bottom of the ocean, so there are no surprises as the film hits these plot points. In fact, it's entertainingly tense to see the Kate and Lisa settling into their dive at a hospitable depth of 15 or so feet and relaxing within the safety of the cage enough to marvel at the clear water and the colorful fish, because you just know that disaster is about to strike. When the cage does drop due to a faulty winch the plummet to the ocean floor 150 feet below is harrowing, and as the girls catch their breath and assess their surroundings, the real horror of their situation sets in.

"47 Meters Down" does a great job of bundling a number of fears - the claustrophobic feel of deep water, the possibility of predatory sharks nearby, the ticking clock threat of suffocation or drowning as air supplies dwindle, and the fundamental helplessness of being trapped - into one horrifying setup. It then piles on additional stressors at an unbelievable rate, as the girls realize that they're out of radio range and can't even tell if the boat is still above or has possibly abandoned them. They're too deep to swim to the surface quickly, air supplies are dangerously low, and there's the matter of those circling sharks...

Part of the fun of a movie like this is thinking about what you'd do in a similar situation, and there's ample opportunity to root for the girls as they seem on the verge of rescue or groan as yet another hope gets dashed by nature, circumstance, or sheer bad luck. It's surprising how much mileage "47 Meters" gets from its premise, so despite its brisk runtime and fairly constrained setup it plays like a real adventure story, complete with plot twists, unpredictable characters, and oh, those sharks.

Like that modest medium roller coaster, "47 Meters Down" isn't flashy and you might not remember it for very long after the trip is over. But if you get on board and catch the mood of your fellow thrill-seekers - because this is one of those movies that's better if you see it with a crowd - you'll probably find yourself enjoying the ride.


What did you think?

Movie title 47 Meters Down
Release year 2017
MPAA Rating PG-13
Our rating
Summary This yarn about two sisters trapped at the bottom of the ocean in a shark cage may seem silly, but if you relax and go with it you're in for a surprisingly entertaining ride.
View all articles by Lora Grady
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