Saturday, 29 July 2017

Review: 47 Metres Down

47 Metres Down*1
Cert: 15 / 89 mins / Dir. Johannes Roberts / Trailer

I'm a fickle cinemagoer, I'll freely admit. We're smack in the middle of 'silly season' with a studio tent-pole movie landing almost every week, the knock-on result of which being that my local five-screener is taken up for months on end with a relatively small quantity of movies, all petering out of rotation with the next release hot on its heels. And then, when we do get something a little different, I stare blankly at the listings web-page grumbling "well what the hell is this that I've seen neither a trailer nor poster for in my cinema?". It's 47 Metres Down and it's a shark movie. Or, to put it more accurately, A Shark Movie™.

When friends Kate (Claire Holt) and Lisa (Mandy Moore) go on holiday to Mexico together, they decide to forego another day by the hotel pool and see some of the local wildlife, taking in an unregistered shark-spotting cruise to get up close and personal with their finned friends from the safety of a submerged cage. And for obvious reasons, this film wasn't made to chronicle thirty minutes of ooh-ing, a few photos for the album and cocktails back at the bar by sundown…

Now by this point, you'll have two questions. 1) Who needs a shark-based flick at the cinema when Asylum are doing such a sterling job of shovelling them all straight to VOD, albeit with additional gunships, zombies, nazis etc? And 2) But how does all this compare to Blake Lively becoming increasingly fraught and decreasingly clothed as she tries to get back to shore? The answer to the first of those is a noncommittal shrug. The second, I'll come back to later.

No please, tell us again in the first ten minutes how the shark-cage will only be lowered 5 metres into the water, on the off-chance that the seated audience has forgotten what the film is called…

The problem is how staggeringly pedestrian the whole thing is. Because unless you're following the aforementioned Asylum model, the general rule is: in water = danger, not in water = safe. And since that movie in 1975 both kickstarted and nullified the genre in a single stroke, countless others have tried to do The Same Thing But Different, and to mixed results. It gives me no great pleasure to report that 47 Metres Down is a film of mixed results.

On the plus-side, it's quite nice to see A Shark Movie™ where the hungry sea-dwellers aren't actually demonised as being a bunch of subaqueous bastards. For obvious reasons they're a threat in this movie, but it's also evident that's because the tour organisers are throwing buckets of chum into the water, followed by live-bait in the form of two hapless holidaymakers. Tonally, this is like the first ten minutes of an episode of Casualty, stretched out for an hour and a half. Indeed, from snapped winch-cables to trapped limbs and grabbing a harpoon by the business end, Kate and Lisa are dogged so relentlessly by bad maritime luck, I swear to god there's a deleted scene where they kill and eat an albatross the previous night…

Director Johannes Roberts conjures a good sense of agoraphobia once the main thrust of the film kicks in (after around ten minutes, this isn't a long movie so has little time to mess around), but with the requisite mood-lighting and dramatic score, it'd be hard not to. The underwater choreography is nice, although the cinematography comes off as murky, especially given that the characters start by saying "you can see for miles down here!" when the camera is pointing back up to the surface, so the audience can't (hazards of filming in a tank, I suppose.). Then again, a short orchestral silence followed immediately by a shark suddenly appearing out of the murk is the film's primary weapon, so this is to be expected. It's a solidly constructed tale, but in the pantheon of shark movies that just means it's predictable. Doesn't have to be, just is.

No please, explain nitrogen-narcosis induced hallucinations for the third time in five minutes, just so that everybody in the audience knows exactly what's you've got in mind for the third act…

The two lead characters are sketched in at the beginning, but only as much as the plot actually requires. Claire Holt's Kate blithely spills her best friend's glass of red wine in an opening-scene foreshadowing, and cares so little about the wastage of hotel-priced alcohol that I'd happily have thrown her into a shark-tank for that alone. Kate, on the other hand, seems to have been written in as the film's Captain Obvious, narrating developments for the hard-of-thinking and wasting precious oxygen with shrill observations like "I'm so scared!", "You're going to run out of air!", "We're going to die down here!" and "There are sharks everywhere!". I'm fully aware that real people say stupid things in dangerous situations, but that's not why I go to the cinema.

And speaking of speaking, the film jumps its obvious communication-hurdle by having radio-sets in the characters' scuba masks. Which is fine, except their ears are visibly outside the seal of the masks, and they don't appear to be wearing corresponding earpieces. Even assuming the receiver-speaker is on the inside, their ears are still insulated by the water outside, so it'd have to be loud enough to vibrate through their eyeballs, surely? I'm sure a lot of you lovely readers are scuba divers and will set me straight on this in the comments-section. I thank you in advance.

No, please, go ahead and homage 'the head shot' from Jaws. Since you're now demonstrably out of ideas, I shall expect the film to end imminently...

So, whereas The Shallows had a heavy subtext about grief, this movie features two young American women on holiday in Mexico, where they're talked into going on an illegal shark-spotting cruise by a pair of dodgy blokes in a bar and naturally everything goes wrong because they trusted the foreigners. Is this Trump's Hollywood?*2 Is this what we can expect for the next three and a half years? Dear lord.

But on the plus-side, if you're 15 and haven't seen any shark movies before, you're going to fucking love this…

So, watch this if you enjoyed?
Predictable disaster movies featuring protagonists with poor decision-making skills, bleeding onto everything in sight.

Should you watch this in a cinema, though?
Not particularly, although it might as well be BIG, if anything.

Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?
…probably / maybe / sometimes / no?

Is this the best work of the cast or director?
To be honest, I have absolutely no idea.
And that's the way I like it

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?
Probably not. Try me.

Yes, but is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
There isn't.

Yes, but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 2: Matthew Modine's in this, and he was in that Full Metal Jacket with Bruce 'Rieekan' Boa.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

*1 That's 47 Meters Down if you're in the US. Or 135ft, 2 inches Down if you're in the UK and still clinging to some misguided notion of imperialism despite decimalisation being a system which makes far more sense to actual humans in the 21st century. Oh yeah, I went there. Seriously though, talk about fucking up the marketing hashtags for an international audience. But in all fairness, the registered BBFC listing says "Metres", as does the poster up there, as does the film's title-card, which I was quite impressed by. I mean, only impressed in that someone went to the trouble of changing it as if that was going to be the clincher between 'gripping thriller' and 'emotionally illiterate, mechanical sharkathon'. [ BACK ]

*2 Yeah, I went there as well! Discuss. [ BACK ]

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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