Privileged white women on vacation being terrorized by sharks is one of Hollywood’s favorite genres.
It’s get so popular that, one year after Blake Lively barely escapes with their own lives in The Shallows , they announce that Mandy Moore is likely to be next to weather a nautical face-off. At first you think,” Wait, Mandy Moore is seriously doing a shark movie ?” And then, instantly: “ Of course Mandy Moore is doing a shark movie .”
Hollywood inevitability is a powerful force-out.
We have find that shark movie, 47 Meters Down , in which, on a vacation dare by her sister( Claire Holt) to demonstrate she’s not a wet blanket, Mandy Moore agrees to go shark diving in a rickety metal enclosure off the coast of Mexico.
Said cage breaches( duh ), and the most bone-chilling episode of This Is Us yet unfolds on the ocean floor.
It is a good, slightly terrifying, slightly maddening shark movie. We will likely require a week or so before swimming into the sea again.( Let’s operate in a blissful alternating reality where going to the beach is a regular occurrence for me .) Still, that’s basically all we ever want from a shark movie!
47 Meters Down is not high art. Hell, it’s not even The Shallows , last summer’s surprisingly engrossing survival tale featuring Lively in full badass mode, a jovial seagull, and a stubborn great white.
But it is one of those amazing full-body-engaging movies, where you physically scoff at the implausibility, jump out of your seat at the well-executed scares –” Ah! There it is again !”– and then laugh at yourself for jumping.
In other words, you get what you came for–plus Mandy Moore.
Annoyingly, this film does have a plot.
Very How Stella Got Her Groove Back -meets- Jaws sprinkled with a amazingly moving acoustic cover of Rihanna’s “Umbrella,” 47 Meters Down introduces us to Moore’s Lisa, who is in Mexico with her blondes-have-more-fun adventurous sister, Kate, following Lisa’s breakup with this humdrum-sounding Basic B named Stuart.
It’s Kate who persuades Lisa to confiscate life by the rusted metal enclosure and run shark diving with some local hotties they meet after a tequila-soaked party montage one night.
As all these films do, 47 Meters Down suffers from the burden of having to feign effort in a pre-shark assault plot, when all anyone wants to see is some good ol’ water thrashing and damsel shrieking.
The script throws us a bone with some cheeky one-liners portending the forthcoming money shoots.” Trust me, once you’re down there you’re not going to want to come back ,” the boat’s captain( played by Matthew Modine !) reassures a nervous Lisa.” I could stay down here forever ,” says Kate once they’re submerged, getting a hearty LOL from the screening audience.
The thing that constructs this not your average Ladies in Bikinis Being Chased By Big Sharks movie is that the harrowing action takes place underwater, so it’s Lady in Giant Scuba Masks Being Chased By Big Sharks.
The cage’s plummet to the bottom of the ocean, which happens after we’re already introduced to the very large and admirably real-looking sharks, is suitably intense. If there’s one thing director Johannes Roberts nails, it’s the film’s genre. Every action sequence, lurking shark, and “Boo!” fright moment is scored with the perfect combination of thrill and cheesiness. It’s the summer popcorn horror flick done to a campy T.
A change in scenery from the ocean’s surface to its floor actually provides a petrifying playground for the movie. The blanket darkness, vastness, and disorientation viscerally instill in you a fear that, in the end, might supplant sharks: being trapped at the bottom of the sea.
And the reason Lisa and Kate are trapped? Science.
At 47 meters deep, they can’t merely fling caution to the wind, hazard a run-in with the sharks, and make a bolt for the surface. As anyone who has scuba-dived knows, that could give you “the bends,” which, to keep things simplistic, could potentially kill you.
That means that 47 Meters Down isn’t just a horror movie about two daughters’ fight against sharks. It’s something much scarier. It’s a fight against AIR !!!
Yes, Lisa and Kate must come up with a answer for freeing themselves from the enclosure, sidestepping the always-circling sharks, and safely getting to the surface–all while operating with a rapidly diminishing supply of oxygen in their scuba tanks. It’s not just a showdown against some man-eating fish. It’s a showdown against the clock.
In order to make any of this believable, the script has to provide some drive-by scuba science–about oxygen levels, decompression, depth, yada yada yada–that falls closer on the spectrum to sufficient than completely implausible, though my dive master boyfriend will gladly spend a half hour with you explaining what they get wrong about nitrogen narcosis at 45 meters.( Spoiler: They’d be dead, y’all .)
But, of course, rolling your eyes at a summertime movie’s junk science is half the fun of a summertime movie.
Not so fun? This movie’s goddamn aiming.
Most of the film’s third act is a riot . It is brimming with the kinds of nonsense death-be-damned action sequences that this genre of cinema subsists on, and it’s wonderfully ridiculous and vastly watchable.
Then goes a crazy spin: All the sharks are associated!( Jk, jk, This Is Us fans .) We patently won’t spoil the twisting here, other than to say when it happened I am positive they would be able to hear my groan 47 meters down–most likely further below.
Listen, this is not the best shark movie you will ever watch. As Kevin O’Keefe at Mic points out, there’s an debate to be made that it’s even a little problematic. Comparing it to Lively’s film, he writes, “ 47 Meters Down is unbelievably cruel to its protagonist ,” while “ The Shallows celebrates its protagonist’s victory .”
There’s an inherent misogyny in the kind of torture porn that a film like this can reflexively slide into–and that The Shallows is so good because it transcended–that even extends to the entire thesis of its consideration of the: It’s pretty entertaining to watch Mandy Moore get terrorized by a shark.
So I’ll end instead by saying this: There’s a very specific genre that this film is in the canon of, and it is a silly, predictable, and often dismissed genre. I love this genre. And I largely loved this film. Until the unexpected, unpleasant aim. Which I guess is likely how it feels to go scuba diving on vacation and then get bit by a shark.
Read more: www.thedailybeast.com