47 Meters Down (2017) Directed by Johannes Roberts. With Mandy Moore, Claire Holt and Matthew Modine.
Lisa (Mandy Moore) is on a coastal vacation in Mexico, trying to come to terms with being dumped by her asshole boyfriend. Apparently, he ditched her because she made the relationship boring. Her sister Kate (Claire Holt) is with her. After a boozy session at a club, they meet up with some local blokes and are invited on a cage diving trip. Lisa is hesitant, but is convinced by Kate that it’s a good idea, because it’ll show the douchebag boyfriend back home that Lisa isn’t such a dull bunny after all, and they’ll get loads of cool pics to show off on social media. So, off they go to sea with Captain Matthew Modine, a shark cage, a faulty winch mechanism, a limited oxygen supply and some hungry great white sharks. What could possibly go wrong!?
Judged purely on ability to create suspense and threat, writer-director Johannes Roberts does an outstanding job of making, what is on a paper, a run-of-the-mill genre film that crucial bit more. Yes, the character arcs are telegraphed and paper-thin, but the execution is comfortably above any bargain-basement expectations you might rightly preconceive. First of all, as a survival thriller, the situation is a juicy one. With air supply at a premium, there is an inbuilt sense of claustrophobia. Multiply that with the threat of a 25-foot apex predator (excellent visual effects), threat of the bends, some nasty injuries, sporadic radio contact with the surface, and well, the fear factor takes care of itself. In honesty, I covered my eyes and yelped at the screen on more than a few occasions, fully wrapped up in the immediate tension of various moments that play out in ways I didn’t fully expect. All of this is achieved by a good understanding how to create anxiety, playing the pauses and using the situation to wrack up the a good amount of tension.
There are predictable jump-scares, but that doesn’t make them any less jumpy (note – I always, always jump at Ben Gardner popping out of the boat hull in Jaws). There are also silly, unrealistic moments, but then, this is popcorn entertainment, and letting it do its thing is the way to get the best experience out of it. I shrieked, I stomped my feet, I groaned and I moaned, but in the end, for 89-minutes (round of applause for sensible runtime), I got exactly the thrill ride I’d hoped for.