Two sisters on Mexican vacation are trapped in a shark observation cage at the bottom of the ocean, with oxygen running low and great whites circling nearby, they have less than an hour of air left to figure out how to get to the surface.
"Kate, I don't know about this."
"It'll be fun! I promise."
You know it's summer when the sharks come out. Not at the beaches murdering surfers, wayward swimmers, or terrorizing SeaWorld per se, but at movie theaters and on the Discovery Channel it's a whole other story. Ever since the original Jaws terrorized moviegoers, sharks have proved to be great for the box office bank. Every year a modestly budgeted imitator comes along to capture a slim fraction of the terror that film inspired. 2016 enjoyed box office success with The Shallows. For 2017, writer/director Johannes Roberts took the basic "stranded in water" concept and dropped our ladies in peril deep under water. 47 Meters Down certainly isn't the greatest shark film, but some solid performances and clever writing keep the tension and suspense rising - even if the cast spends most of their time in a cage.
Sisters and besties for life Kate (Claire Holt) and Lisa (Mandy Moore) are living it up on their vacation in Mexico. The girls are footloose and fancy-free as their respective boyfriends are not on the scene. While Kate is streamlined focused on having the best time of her life, Lisa has her attention squarely focused on home where her relationship with her boyfriend is rapidly deteriorating. When life sucks and you need to move on, what better way to forget your troubles than to do something completely reckless and stupid?
When the gals are tempted to see some great white sharks in a rusty cage owned by the sketchy Captain Taylor (Matthew Modine), Kate's goading is too much and Lisa relents her good judgment and jumps in. When the rusty cable snaps and the girls plummet 150 feet down under the water, Lisa and Kate will have to stay calm, reserve their oxygen, and use their brains if they hope to survive as blood-hungry great white sharks circle overhead.
Let's get the obvious out of the way, 47 Meters Down is just solid silly fun that is better than it has any right to be. We get to know the characters just enough that we like them and care about them and are invested in their survival. We may not completely understand why two educated women would trust some shady guys with a rusty boat and diving cage without buoyancy tanks in waters teeming with 20-foot great white sharks, but who cares? If we sweat the small stuff we lose the fun that this movie is trying to provide.
The main reason why 47 Meters Down works at all is because of the relationship and chemistry between Claire Holt's Kate and Mandy Moore's Lisa. When you first meet these characters you would think they were just best friends out on a vacation together after years apart. Then you discover they're siblings and you get the aspect of rivalry, you understand Lisa's reluctance and insecurity because she's always lived in her sister's shadow. When the two are paired in a survival situation, you understand Kate's take charge nature while Lisa has to work harder to overcome her fears. It's Holt, Moore, and the simple but clever writing and directing by Johannes Roberts that make this movie work.
Considering the film was made on a measly $5.5million budget, the results are actually impressive. The digital sharks aren't all that much to look at, they have the typical low-budget weightless look to them. But really, the sharks aren't the entrée of this dish, they're more like the garnish. The sharks are there to add an extra layer of potential danger while the characters deal with any number of survival issues. Considering this film was shot underwater in a tank in England, the filmmakers got their money's worth! It's an impressive looking production that gets a lot of mileage out of what is essentially a single location.
Now, for a little marketplace soapboxing. While I love the big action movies and superhero flicks of late, I have to admit that I'm getting really tired of that sort of film being the only thing out there during the summer season. Overproduced, over-budgeted tentpoles that fail are becoming all too common. Originally, producing partners Anchor Bay and Dimension films planned to dump 47 Meters Down on VOD and DVD titled "In The Deep" in 2016 without anything resembling a true theatrical release before it was recalled (Some copies managed to slip out and go for a pricy penny on eBay). When the film was bought by Entertainment Studios, that plan shifted to a theatrical release.
While 47 Meters Down may not have been a box office juggernaut but $44million is still damn noteworthy considering its low production and marketing costs. After one of the worst summer box office seasons in 15 years, Hollywood and theater exhibitors should maybe take a look at flicks like Split, Get Out, and even smaller ones like 47 Meters Down. You don't need to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to bring audiences into theaters on a hot day. Again, 47 Meters Down certainly wasn't the best movie of the year or the smartest, but it was clever, well made, respected its characters and proved to be a great ride. Which is more than I can say for a lot of movies I paid good cash to see this summer.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
47 Meters Down arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Anchor Bay in a Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD set. Pressed onto a Region A BD-25 disc, the disc is housed in a two-disc eco-friendly Blu-ray case with identical slipcover artwork. The disc loads to trailers for upcoming Anchor Bay releases before arriving at an animated main menu with traditional navigation options.
47 Meters Down arrives with a solid - if slightly problematic - 2.40:1 1080p transfer. The primary issue with this transfer is some compression artifacts most visible around lights in dark underwater sequences. You get a notable amount of ringing and pixelation. Whats there isn't terrible, it never pulls you out of the action or is ever too distracting, but it's a notable presence just the same. Thankfully, everything else works great for this transfer. Details are strong allowing you to make note of facial features, costuming, as well as the rusty bars of the underwater cage. During the underwater sequences, some details get lost in the murky water and lowlights but close-ups look great. Colors are on point, daylight scenes look great, that ocean offers up a deep rich blue color. Red is also prominent considering the presence of sharks. All around this is a very strong transfer and looks great on Blu-ray.
47 Meters Down brings with it a solid DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix. Dialogue is crisp and clear throughout, even with the radio voices of our lead actresses, you never have difficulty hearing what is being said. Sound effects are the core of this mix as 90% of the film takes place underwater, there is a great muffled effect throughout the film. Metal on metal impacts has that appropriate tinny clang to them. When sharks swim by there is a great swoosh effect through the channels. Bubbles escaping the air regulators also add some great layering and surround activity to the mix. Atmospherics are terrific giving the mix a sense of space - this would have been killer in an Atmos mix or a 7.1 mix like the theatrical release was. As it stands, this 5.1 mix is great and works well for home viewing.
Bonus features may not be plentiful for this release of 47 Meters Down, but what's here is actually pretty good. The behind-the-scenes featurette may not be nearly long enough, but the audio commentary is a great listen and well worth the time.
Audio Commentary Featuring writer/director Johannes Roberts and producer James Harris. It's a great listen as the pair cover a lot of ground about the concept of the film as well as production details about shooting on a small budget in a tank in England.
Unexpected Originality (HD 11:12) Again, if you haven't seen the film already, DO NOT WATCH THIS! Lots of spoilers here. This covers a lot of the typical EPK stuff, but actually gives solid overview material that complements the audio commentary very well.
47 Meters Down is a solid entertaining shark flick. After a sordid needlessly complicated release, this film finally made it to theaters where it raked in some solid box office bucks. It's an entertaining ride with a great cast and well executed. It's popcorn entertainment and is a terrific way to spend an evening with the lights off. Anchor Bay brings 47 Meters Down to Blu-ray in fine form with a strong A/V presentation and a couple of decent bonus features. Fans of the shark chomping genre should be happy to add this one to their collection. Recommended.