The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


47 Meters Down

There's a different expectation going into a B-movie. It's okay for a picture to be a little manipulative, a little predictable, and a little cheesy, so long as it delivers whatever exploitative thrills it promises. 47 Meters Down is a very good B-movie. With a hooky premise and lean-and-mean pace, it provides 89 minutes of intense, shiver-inducing fun.

Mandy Moore plays Lisa. She was supposed to take a vacation in Mexico with her boyfriend, but he dumped her, so she brings her sister Kate (Claire Holt) instead. Determined to prove to her ex back home that she's not as boring as he claims, Lisa lets Kate talk her into going cage diving to see sharks. The boat captain, Taylor (Matthew Modine), puts them into a metal cage and they start to descend. Then the winch breaks, sending the sisters plummeting to the bottom of the ocean.

Director Johannes Roberts (Storage 24) and co-writer Ernest Riera have a grand old time piling one complication after another on their characters. Lisa and Kate can't ascend to the surface without potentially getting the bends. Their air supply is running low. The only way to regain radio contact with Taylor is for one of them to get out of the cage and swim a few meters up, which means becoming vulnerable to the sharks. That's just the beginning of it. Each new twist makes it seem less and less likely that they will survive.

47 Meters Down is a terrific example of an “ordeal movie,” a film that shows people enduring an unfathomably horrific ordeal and makes you a participant by proxy. Even though the plot telegraphs everything that's going to happen way in advance, you can't help but put yourself in the shoes of these women. You imagine yourself in this predicament – how you'd feel, what you'd do, how you'd fare in the face of gruesome death. This quality doesn't let up for an hour-and-a-half, ensuring that you sit there with your muscles tense, reacting in horror to each new peril.

The visual effects used to create the biggest threat, the sharks, have a little bit of low-budget cheapness to them. (This was, at one point, intended to be released to on-demand platforms, rather than cinemas.) Even if they aren't 100% convincing, Roberts does an excellent job of conveying the vastness and darkness of the ocean depths. An especially chilling scene finds one of the women exiting the cage and then becoming disoriented, unsure of how to get back to it. The production values, in this sense, are quite good, making it feel as though everything was really filmed at the bottom of the ocean.

There's a lot one could nitpick about. It's hard to register performances when the two lead actresses have bulky face masks on the entire time. The most gruesome shark attack moments feel as though they've been edited down to a PG-13, rather than embracing their inherent R-rated goriness. The editing is a little choppy at times. You get the drift.

But one does not go to something like 47 Meters Down for anything other than cheap, effective thrills. And boy, do you ever get them. With jump scares aplenty, an impressive array of terrifying complications, and a setting that manages to feel simultaneously claustrophobic and eerily vast, this nifty little B-movie is surprisingly satisfying.

It ain't Jaws, and it's not even The Shallows, but if you approach it on its own terms, 47 Meters Down is a perfectly enjoyable shark attack thiller.

( out of four)

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

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