47 Meters Down: Uncaged

No one would ever describe 47 Meters Down as great art. It only intended to be a fun shark-attack B-movie, and on that count it's one of the best ever made. The sequel, 47 Meters Down: Uncaged has the exact same goal, with the added ambition of upping the intensity of the shark action. Its success level can be summed up in two words: mission accomplished.

Rather than rehashing the scenario from the original, writer/director Johannes Roberts goes in a whole new direction. The lead character is Mia (Sophie Nelisse), a teenage girl living in Mexico because her explorer father (John Corbett) is scouting a sunken Mayan city. Mia doesn't entirely like it there, and she definitely doesn't like her stepsister Sasha (Corinne Foxx, daughter of Jamie).

Sasha and two friends, Alexa (Brianne Tju) and Catherine (Sistine Stallone, daughter of Sylvester), convince Mia to join them in diving down into the cave that leads to the underwater city. The plan is to just look around the first section, then come right back up. That plan is foiled by a massive shark looming down there, as well as an accident that causes the entryway to implode, leaving them trapped inside. Only one way out exists, which is to traverse the maze-like city in search of another exit. Of course, this puts them in contact with more sharks.

The beauty of 47 Meters Down was the simplicity of its concept. Two women go cage diving, the winch on the boat breaks, they plunge to the ocean floor, and hungry sharks circle them. Uncaged has a much more complex concept, with its submerged city and convoluted manner of getting the characters into their central predicament. Consequently, it lacks the same sense of "What would I do in this situation?" urgency that made the first one as much a psychological thriller as a scary shark picture.

Roberts compensates for that by going bigger and better with the shark scenes. There are more sharks in this sequel, they attack more often, and the perils stack up on top of each other in appealingly twisted fashion. A particularly intense scene has the characters finding a potential way out, only to have their plan foiled by one person's panicked, lunk-headed behavior. Even more suspenseful is the requisite bit near the end where the surviving girls think they're safe at last, only to have a final threat present itself. I confess to giggling with delight at the element that puts them in danger once again.

47 Meters Down: Uncaged plays upon some primal fears, too. On a couple occasions, the characters have to swim through very narrow passages, leading to a sense of claustrophobia. Silt is repeatedly kicked up as they make their way through the city, leading to disorientation and low visibility. Tanks running out of oxygen are another factor. It's practically a guarantee that something in the film will get you biting your nails.

Why do some of us like movies where people get eaten by sharks? Perhaps that's a question best left unanswered. All that matters is that we do and 47 Meters Down: Uncaged provides plenty of what we're coming for. Character development is minimal (despite good performances from the cast), there's not much plot to speak of, and you'll spot the story's half-baked sisterhood theme coming a mile away. Fine. What's important here is that the movie is a ridiculous amount of fun for viewers who want a crazy, fast-paced, make-you-jump, shark-a-palooza.

out of four

47 Meters Down: Uncaged is rated PG-13 for sequences of intense peril, bloody images, and brief strong language. The running time is 1 hour and 29 minutes.