KVIFF 2017 Review: ‘47 Meters Down’ Top-Notch Shark Cage Chum

KVIFF 2017 Review: ‘47 Meters Down’ Top-Notch Shark Cage Chum

Pop quiz: besides Jaws, name a good shark movie.

You might answer Open Water (I’ll grant it) or last year’s The Shallows (I won’t) but the truth of the matter is that for all the shark movies that have been made in the wake of the Spielberg classic, only rarely is there a good one.

47 Meters Down has some other obstacles to overcome: it stars former teen popstar Mandy Moore, and it was scheduled for direct-to-streaming release last summer before being picked up and given a theatrical date in 2017. Neither are good signs, for any movie.

But against all odds, this straight-up B-flick, screening in the midnight movies section at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, is a good shark movie. Good-enough, in any regard: it’s a nifty little thriller that never lets up once it gets to the water, and it’s nicely written and directed despite some obvious budget restraints.

Moore and Claire Holt star as Lisa and Kate, a pair of sisters vacationing in Mexico who decide to go for one of those shark cage experiences on a sketchy little three-man rig operated by American Captain Taylor (Matthew Modine). 

Because, you know, it looked like so much fun in Jaws, and those Shark Week documentaries that show the Great Whites breaking through the cage.

No surprises: things don’t go as planned, and the sisters wind up stuck in the cage at the bottom of the ocean while deadly sharks swarm around them like vultures.

The rest of the movie takes place entirely from within the shark cage. It sounds like an Open Water-like gimmick, but the filmmakers (writer-director Johannes Roberts and co-writer Ernest Riera) do an excellent job of stuffing the script full of incident and plot devices, always a concern with this kind of thing.

Not only do the sisters have to contend with the sharks swimming around them, but also a rapidly depleting oxygen supply, the hefty tank itself, a intermittent radio link with the boat above them, and 'the bends': even if they’re able to get out of the cage and past the sharks, if they rise too quickly the change in water pressure can be fatal.

All these elements combine to create a nonstop thrill ride that never lets up once the sisters get in the cage. There are even some unexpected surprises along the way, though the finale may not please everyone.

Moore is barely seen underneath the scuba gear, and Modine is mostly heard through the radio, but the cast and crew do a sturdy job on what must have been a light budget; only do the sharks themselves, while only briefly glimpsed, suffer from the limitations.

It’s never pretends to be anything other than a tense little B-movie, but 47 Meters Down succeeds where movies of considerably higher budget have failed. After Jaws, this is that rarest of creatures: a good shark flick.

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