It’s hard to maintain character and drama when your two stars are marooned 47 metres under the ocean and spend over two-thirds of the film’s running time encumbered by diving masks. Still, English writer/director Johannes Roberts must have made a pretty good stab at it, with 47 Metres Down making back almost ten times its $5.5m budget at the box office, and a sequel (adding an extra metre’s depth) officially going into pre-production.
Given its premise and publicity, you’d be forgiven for expecting Roberts’ film to be an underwater Aliens, primarily concerned with the great white sharks that are plastered all over the promotional materials. Instead, and although the marine predators are an ever-present threat, the movie is more like that other James Cameron film The Abyss, in that it’s the predicament of the two sisters trapped on the ocean floor that occupies most of its duration. As such – and despite brave and mostly convincing performances from Holt and Moore, who spent the better part of the shoot in an enormous water tank in Basildon – it’s a shame the two girls aren’t given more in the way of back-story or greater depth of characterisation. Several scenes were cut that would have involved James Van Der Beek as Lisa’s boyfriend, presumably in order to get to the water more quickly.
The two sisters, the younger and more carefree Kate (Australian Claire Holt) and her elder, more repressed sibling Lisa (ex-pop singer Mandy Moore), are in Mexico trying to get Lisa over the break-up of her relationship with Stuart – who has dumped her for being boring – when they hook up with two local men, who persuade the girls to throw off their inhibitions by cage diving in shark-infested waters. Of course, it isn’t long before things have gone awry, and just a third of the way into 47 Metres Down’s running time, that’s exactly where Kate and Lisa find themselves, running low on oxygen and with no lifeline back to the surface.
While there’s nothing in the characters that ostentatiously beggars belief (although the science surrounding both the sharks and the diving is off-the-scale nonsense, which is perhaps fair enough given there wouldn’t be much of a film otherwise), neither are the sisters sketched in well enough that we really ever come to know or like them. And that is Roberts’ biggest problem because in spite of managing to keep the obviously slight narrative ticking over such that it never gets excruciatingly dull, we never really get to care either – and thus the killer twist at the end is totally wasted.
Nevertheless, this is an enjoyable enough time-filler, a Friday night renter that won’t tax or traumatise the viewer too considerably.
Extras: Director and cast interviews
47 METRES DOWN / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: JOHANNES ROBERTS / SCREENPLAY: JOHANNES ROBERTS, ERNEST RIERA / STARRING: CLAIRE HOLT, MANDY MOORE, MATTHEW MODINE / RELEASE DATE: NOVEMBER 27TH