Thursday, June 15, 2017

Review: "47 Meters Down"

You may remember a nice little shark thriller from last year, "The Shallows," in which Blake Lively played a surfer menaced by a toothsome Selachimorpha while on a Mexican vacation. "47 Meters Down" is practically a direct clone, except instead of a girl stranded on a rock it has two sisters trapped in an underwater shark cage.

Their air slowly running out, they hope for rescue while knowing they're eventually going to have to take matters into their own hand.

It's a tense, well-made piece disposable entertainment, with 45% more shark but 92% less bikini than "The Shallows."

Mandy Moore has mostly stayed out of the movies the last few years, doing a lot of voice work mostly on TV. The former teen pop idol seemed to lose interest in Hollywood stardom -- and/or vice-versa -- so I'm curious why she chose this project for her comeback to the big screen.

She's an empathetic presence as Lisa, who's vacationing in Mexico with her sister, Kate (Claire Holt). She was supposed to take this trip with her boyfriend, Stuart, and Kate was a last-minute replacement. We soon found out the reason is they have split up, with Stuart complaining that Lisa isn't a "fun" person.

Of course, she's about to get the adventure... of a lifetime!!

Lisa starts to come out of her shell while partying with a pair of local pretty boys, Louis (Yani Gellman) and Benjamin (Santiago Segura). They suggest they go shark-seeing, as they know a captain (Matthew Modine) with a boat and a shark cage.

They're a little put off by the grimy condition of the boat, and the mate (Chris Johnson) doesn't do much to alleviate Lisa's fears, teasing her about the 25-foot great whites trolling these waters. After sufficiently chumming up the waters with fish blood and parts, the boys go down and come back up just fine.

Kate is an experienced diver but Lisa is not, though she gets the hang quickly and soon they're enjoying the view. These clearly are some hungry sharks, as one swallows their water camera after they drop it.

Then the winch breaks and they're sent plummeting down to the bottom of the ocean at the titular depth -- that's over 150 feet deep, for us Yanks. The rest of the movie plays out in real time, as hysterics give way to resolve and increasingly daring ventures to save themselves.

The violence is pretty mild even by PG-13 standards. When someone gets munched -- as must happen in a shark movie -- it's pretty much just a flash of action, a surprised yelp, a diffuse cloud of blood and it's over. Honestly, it could easily have been PG with a few tweaks.

(And here is your reminder that the granddaddy of this genre, "Jaws," replete with spurting blood, body pieces and nudity, received a PG rating back in 1975. Wow.)

Director Johannes Roberts, who co-wrote the script with Ernest Riera, comes from a horror background, and it shows. Scares tend to be of the "boo-gotcha" variety, and the appearances of the sharks are so telegraphed we can practically hear John Williams' iconic two-note musical refrain starting in our minds.

It's a decent popcorn movie -- short (89 minutes), effective, not terribly imaginative. But it's got bite enough.

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