Although it’s a slight cut above its sleeper hit predecessor, 47 Meters Down: Uncaged is still a standard, unsurprising shark attack flick. Despite years of research showing that shark attacks are relatively rare, audiences still love to see great whites chomping down on some unsuspecting, seafaring rubes. If that’s all you want from 47 Meters Down: Uncaged, that’s what you’re going to get. It’s a film that almost isn’t worth talking about or picking apart because it’s as basic as a cheddar cheese on white bread drowned in buckets of fake blood and chum. If you find that satisfying, 47 Meters Down: Uncaged is the movie for you. If not, maybe see literally anything else in theatres at the moment.
To give some credit where due, returning director and co-writer Johannes Roberts isn’t recycling the same plot of his original film outright, and he at least changes the setting and variable circumstances of his shark bait this time out. Shy, bullied teenager Mia (Canadian actress Sophie Nélisse) lives in a bucolic, tropical community with her archaeologist father (John Corbett) and stepmother (Nia Long). Mia is seemingly at odds with her vastly cooler and more confident stepsister, Sasha (Corinne Foxx, daughter of Jamie), who barely acknowledges her younger sibling. Dad is busy working on a recently discovered underwater Mayan temple, and he’s set the girls up on a glass bottom boat tour to check out some sharks while he’s busy working for the weekend. Neither Mia, nor Sasha are exactly thrilled with the idea of a boat ride, and they’re rescued from potential boredom by the latter’s friends, Alexa (Brianne Tju) and Nicole (Sistine Rose Stallone, daughter of Sylvester). The quartet head to a floating dock at the base of the cliff used by Mia’s dad and his co-workers as a checkpoint place to stash their underwater gear. Hesitantly, Mia and Sasha agree to follow their friends for a quick dive and lap around the cave, but one of the group freaks out and causes the narrow passages and walls to collapse around them. Also, there are multiple sharks – all of whom have been raised in darkness and possess heightened senses – who want to kill them. Apparently the temple was used by the Mayans to conduct human sacrifices to these beasts of the deep? Who knew?
Well, we knew, or else we probably wouldn’t buy tickets to see thrillers as obvious and plodding as 47 Meters Down: Uncaged, which has a dreadful opening thirty minutes, but grows progressively more palatable from there. After the uninteresting and barely necessary character set up, Roberts gets the action oriented horror portion of his movie off on an even worse foot, with a laughably cheesy jump scare, complete with cut-rate Jaws 3D quality CGI. The girls panic, repeatedly scream each others names, wiggle around in their bikini bottoms and wetsuit tops, and the shark(s) won’t leave them alone long enough for them to figure out a plan to safely get back to the surface or find Mia’s probably nearby dad. Just like in the first movie, they only have a certain amount of oxygen in their tanks, and it’s only a matter of time before they run out, allowing Roberts to further indulge the ticking clock fetish he drove into the ground the last time out. The girls kick up a bunch of silt, which is both plausible in reality (one of the few plausible touches in the whole film), but it also makes everything impossible to see. Until 47 Meters Down: Uncaged finally decides to calm the fuck down, it’s just a blur of dirt, piss poor effects, and people waving flashlights around through the murky waters. It’s not cinema, art, or entertainment and is less interesting than watching an actual dumpster fire.
The effects never get any better or more convincing and the cinematography rarely improves, but once the water starts clearing up, 47 Meters Down: Uncaged abandons any pretense of taking itself seriously and opts to just give the people what they came to see. Things lighten up, and Roberts and fellow returning co-writer Ernest Riera start to inject some much needed dark humour into what had been far too serious for something this ludicrous and hokey. There are some clever set pieces, a few genuinely effective gotcha moments, and the production design of the Mayan temple is somewhat impressive when one stops to think how difficult it must be to construct something like that underwater and how little money they probably had to work with. Each of the cast members play their singular traits well. Mia is the shy one. Alexa is the smart one. Sasha is the strong one. Nicole is the reckless one. None of them stand out, but none of them look bad, either, and each gets a couple of moments or choice bits of dialogue to make sure their parts are somewhat memorable.
But a handful of decent moments don’t make a good movie, although 47 Meters Down: Uncaged almost pulls out an unlikely recommendation based on the strength of its gonzo, slo-mo heavy badass climax. If 47 Meters Down: Uncaged was nothing more than the final ten minute showdown, it would be near perfect. Unfortunately, there’s 79 minutes that come before it.
47 Meters Down: Uncaged opens in theatres everywhere on Friday, August 16, 2019.
Check out the trailer for 47 Meters Down: Uncaged:
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