'47 Meters Down' - Review - Chris at the Pictures

Sunday, 6 August 2017

'47 Meters Down' - Review

★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆  

Murky, cheap, and laden with an oxygen supply-to-dialogue ratio to make critics of Gravity rethink their entire being, 47 Meters Down is a throwaway piece of sharksploitation from British director Johannes Roberts (Storage 24, The Other Side of the Door). Mandy Moore and Claire holt star as two American holidaymakers dumped onto the seabed when the winch holding their diving cage in place is broken. 

Upon leaving the screening, an elderly gentleman from a few rows in front turned and exclaimed “Leaves you gasping for breath, doesn’t it?!”. My usual social ineptitude stopped me from responding with anything more than a polite chuckle, rather than the disparaging “I wish!” that later occurred.

The earlier comparison to Gravity wasn’t an entirely flippant observation: both Cuaron and Roberts focus on two people struggling in an inhospitable environment, cast adrift from help and with a limited supply of air. Stylistically, however, they couldn’t be more different, despite the latter’s attempt to copy the former. The frame is a grim soup that resembles dishwater more than seawater and the editing is all fast, choppy takes to try and cover-up the lack of a visual effects budget. It even (clumsily and awkwardly) mimics the outside-to-inside camera transition of the space helmets, but with scuba masks.

But what truly tugs the film into the abyss of awfulness is its script; an endless train of repeated dialogue that seems indistinguishable from an audio-described version produced for the blind. Moore and Holt are discernible from each other only by one’s characterization as ‘the cool one’ and the other as ‘the scared one’, their individual arcs (a word used in its loosest possible definition) as predictable as the tides. A hideously contrived and signposted twist (that had a fellow patron and I sighing and shaking our heads in perfect unison) is the final viscus in the chum bucket.

Obviously, the high watermark for any shark movie is Jaws, but the problem with 47 Meters Down isn’t that it’s not Jaws, it’s that it’s not The Shallows. Jaume Collet-Serra’s 2016 hit was a nippy, well-directed thriller with nail-biting scares, eye-watering injury detail and an actual visual identity; three components totally lacking here. The most one could salvage from the experience is certainty that, in the not-too-distant future, 47 Meters Down will end up on the SyFy channel during a Sunday afternoon, and give someone expecting the sort of dreck produced by The Asylum a pleasant surprise.