47 Meters Down is an oceanic disaster film so morose and shoddy that it begs for some levity. With only a handful of cliched jump scares and general lack of visual tension, there’s a lot of room for your mind to wander to lighten the mood over its lethargic 89 minutes. For example, which Mandy Moore track do sharks prefer: “In My Pocket” or “Candy”? What would the film be like with a commentary by Brian Fellows? “Does that shark have arms?”
The shark infested intellectual waters of the film present the least exciting version of a familiar conceit: while vacationing in Mexico, two sisters – Fun Chill Kate (Claire Holt) and Sad Lame Lisa (Moore) are wooed by two charming local men (Yani Gellman and Santiago Segura) to shark watch on a dingy outfit (led by Matthew Modine). Things go awry immediately, leaving the two at the bottom of the ocean to fend for themselves against carnivores and depleting oxygen tanks. While this year’s Goldie Hawn / Amy Schumer comedy Snatched received plenty of fair criticisms for its offensive optics on South American dangers for white ladies, 47 Meters Down deserves them even more.
Many comparisons will be made to last summer’s Blake Lively-led The Shallows, and that’s because The Shallows delivers precisely what audiences want and then some (even if it did have some aesthetic issues of its own). Rest assured this is not a girl power thriller as that film was, even if it does lamprey itself on that film’s cache. In many ways, the film hates its central sisters, tut-tutting Kate’s freer instincts while equally condemning Lisa’s stiffness. It reaches for caring sisterly sentiment while pitting their morals against eachother, the delight it takes in their peril inextricable from its judgmental point of view on both of them. So, decidedly not an empowerment picture.
Meters kind of flies in the face of audience expectations, delivering a pretentiously punishing result that’s nowhere near as smart as it thinks it is. It’s not that the morbidity hurts the film and hates the audience because it denies a certain sense of fun, but because there is a strange righteousness to its self-seriousness that rings completely false to its own flimsy cardboard composition.
Worse yet, Meters is rather hideous to look at. To build the kind of tension that makes such a film as this work, you need more attention to detail and precise craft than Meters is willing to offer. Its as if director Johannes Roberts has watched Gravity one too many times and idolized only its least interesting shots, recreating them in a backyard and surrounding it with aesthetic emptiness. It’s partly lacking vision and partly lacking the awareness of its
In both composition and ideas, 47 Meters Down is the worst film of the year so far.