47 Meters Down Too Shallow

Movie review: 47 Meters Down

Mandy Moore and Claire Holt play potential shark chum in another girl-versus-shark showdown that makes us care more about sharks than selfie-obsessed humans

47 Meters Down


Starring: Mandy Moore, Claire Holt, Matthew Modine

Directed by: Johannes Roberts

Running time: 1 hr 29 minutes

Rating: PG-14

Poor Sharks: Always forced to play the villain.

By Katherine Monk

Poor sharks. They get such a bad rap considering there’s a ten-times greater chance of dying from a falling coconut than a shark attack. But sharks look much scarier than coconuts. And a shark could eat you.

Reason should tell us that statistically, the odds are greatly in our favour — on both counts. There’s a much greater chance that a human would eat a shark than a shark eat a human. And an even bigger likelihood that a human would eat a coconut than a shark.

Yet sharks trigger the primal fear of being eaten alive, thanks to Steven Spielberg’s baiting, which means all reason goes out the window. We’re reduced to animal instincts, potential prey of our own panic.

The challenge, and the great human struggle, is to use our intelligence to free ourselves. But what if, in addition to a sense of natural panic at being surrounded by sharks, you were also 47 meters under water, trapped in a steel cage designed to protect you?

Obviously, that’s exactly what happens to sisters Lisa (Mandy Moore) and Kate (Claire Holt) in Johannes Roberts’s 47 Meters Down, the latest in what seems to be a seasonal shark-eats-girl thing. Last year at this time, we were watching Blake Lively sew her leg together in The Shallows — but it all started June 20, 1975, in the opening scene of Jaws.

That’s where the roots of Roberts’s exercise really begin. Kate and Lisa are products of pop culture conditioning, which is why they decide a selfie with a Great White would be the best way to show Lisa’s boyfriend she isn’t boring, or afraid, even though she may actually be both.

The gals are nice enough, and genuinely believable good people, that we care about what happens to them once they get into that shark cage. The title foreshadows the dilemma, but Roberts keeps us in suspense just long enough to build up the emotional stakes before he drops the plot to the ocean floor.

We know their vulnerabilities, and we know their strengths. Lisa is afraid and prone to panic. Kate is brave and steady. She’s also an experienced diver. Divers know thinking is impaired at depths approaching 30 meters, and anything past 40 meters is considered unsafe for anyone except trained professionals. You wouldn’t be able to think straight at 47 meters down — and that’s the whole point.

Roberts places Kate and Lisa in a situation filled with primal fears, plus an environment that prohibits rational thought. How can they get to the surface without being eaten, dying from the bends, passing out from nitrogen narcosis or simply suffocating from a lack of air?

The scenario is terrifying. Yet, this movie isn’t as scary as it probably should be. And it certainly isn’t as scary as it probably wanted to be given how many times we see shark teeth graze human skin.

Maybe it’s thematic fatigue. Maybe it’s an increasing sympathy for the poor sharks, forever assigned the role of villain when all they want to do is feed themselves and their family. But there’s something missing at the heart of this bloody exercise, and it’s intelligence.

The scenario is terrifying. Yet, this movie isn’t as scary as it probably should be. And it certainly isn’t as scary as it probably wanted to be given how many times we see shark teeth graze human skin.

The rational part of me was thinking: At that depth, you wouldn’t be able to kick upward with any success without fins and they’re both in bare feet. Also, they should have bailed while the cage was sinking. They should have been less afraid of the sharks.

When your rational brain is thinking be less afraid of the central threat, the primal fears are harder to access. Roberts really does his best to conjure every nightmare scenario in the NAUI dive book as he taps into our deepest fears of drowning, confinement and being eaten alive.

Moore and Holt also do their part to breathe life into the deflated lungs of their characters, but 47 Meters Down gets pinned by cliché and chomped by some genre cheese in the form of Matthew Modine as the shady captain.

Coupled with the lapses in logic, the idea that Lisa and Kate are putting themselves and the sharks at risk for a selfie, and sympathy for those poor creatures we humans turn into tasteless fin soup — and 47 meters down starts to look a little shallow.


THE EX-PRESS.COM, June 23, 2017
Katherine Monk’s Movie Reviews on Rotten Tomatoes


Review: 47 Meters Down

User Rating

2 (10 Votes)



The perennial shark-eats-girl movie is a seasonal staple and Johannes Roberts certainly knew his source material as he casts Mandy Moore and Claire Holt as sisters looking to spice up their Mexican holiday with a shady excursion involving a shark cage. When the cage ends up on the ocean floor, the girls must find a way to get to the surface without drowning, dying from the bends or being eaten alive. It's dependable suspense, but deep as it goes, it feels a little shallow. -- Katherine Monk

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