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(2017) (Mandy Moore, Claire Holt) (PG-13)

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Suspense: Two sisters must contend with being stuck forty-seven meters below the surface of the sea when their shark cage comes lose from their boat and sinks.
Lisa (MANDY MOORE) and her sister, Kate (CLAIRE HOLT), are on vacation together in Mexico when Lisa informs Kate that she just broken up with her significant other. To help her get over that, Kate has them go out for a night on the town where they end up meeting and hitting it off with Louis (YANI GELLMAN) and Benjamin (SANTIAGO SEGUARA).

The two men suggest that the sisters join them the following day in going out into the sea and observing sharks from the safety of a steel cage. Kate is all for that, but Lisa is a bit hesitant, although she goes along and all four of them meet their captain, Taylor (MATTHEW MODINE), and his first mate of sorts, Javier (CHRIS J. JOHNSON).

They boat out into the open water, toss chum into that, and Louis and Benjamin take the first ride down five meters underwater to view the 20-foot sharks. Next up, it's Lisa and Kate's turn, and despite being nervous, they enjoy it once they're underwater.

That is, until the line holding their cage slips and drops them down to the seafloor, where they find themselves stuck 47 meters underwater. From that point on, and with sharks all around, and limited air in their scuba tanks, they try to figure out how to get themselves out of this dire predicament.

OUR TAKE: 5 out of 10
In just eight years, we'll be celebrating the -- gulp -- 50th anniversary of the release of "Jaws," the film that put Steven Spielberg on the map and caused a generation of kids -- and adults -- to stand at the edge of the surf, peer out over the waves and adamantly state, "Go out there? With the sharks? Not gonna do it."

Granted, Spielberg got lucky by being stuck with an unreliable mechanical shark (in the days long before CGI could even come close to creating realistic looking animals, especially underwater), but he also had a great script, a terrific cast (who created memorable characters), a fantastic composer, and a deft directorial touch that turned what could have been just another "man vs. animal" movie into one of the greatest films of all time.

In the intervening forty-two years since that movie became the first modern box office blockbuster, plenty of other films featuring sharks have attempted to take a bite out of the legend's pole position status. None have succeeded.

Sure, a few such as "Open Water" have had their moments while "Sharknado" was fun for its sheer preposterous and outrageous stupidity. The latest to dip its toes into the waters of its formidable and legendary predecessor, and do so in a more serious vein, is "47 Meters Down."

Unlike "Open Water" where the would-be victims ended up adrift in the ocean after their dive boat left them or "The Shallows" where Blake Lively's character ended up stuck on a rocky outcrop and then a buoy with land in sight but a shark between it and her, the plot here focuses on two sisters (Mandy Moore and Claire Holt) who end up stuck on the seafloor 47 meters down when their shark viewing cage comes loose and plummets downward from their boat.

And that's about all there is to the plot as penned by writer/director Johannes Roberts and co-scribe Ernest Riera. After a brief bit featuring the sisters heading off for a night of fun in some Mexican beach resort -- to help Moore's character cope with her significant other dumping her -- they join two men they just met and decide to do some shark viewing as provided by an American captain (Matthew Modine) and his local first mate.

After the men make a successful trip just five meters down, the ladies are next up. But just when the wow factor has superseded their fear, the cable holding their cage slips a bit and then completely gives way, sending them plummeting down to our titular level. With part of the winch crane blocking their cage opening and with limited air in their scuba tanks and chum-inspired great white sharks swimming about, things look fairly dire.

Not to mention potentially redundant and repetitive. I'll give credit to Roberts for not taking the approach most everyone else would have -- cutting back and forth between the ladies down below and the men up top, with both sides trying to figure out how to resolve the situation.

Instead, the filmmaker keeps everything below the surface, with only occasional radio/intercom contact with those up in the boat when one of the women is brave enough to swim a few meters up from the safety of the cage and out into open waters in order to be in contact range.

And much like "Jaws," he also keeps the shark sightings and "interactions" to a minimum, thus putting the viewer into a somewhat similar situation as the women by knowing the sharks are out there, but not being able to peer well enough through the murky darkness and depth of the water to see them.

Spielberg and company, however, knew that they needed more than just "cat and mouse" material to make audiences truly care. Yes, many viewers will feel for the ladies and their ordeal -- if just from a shared primal, survival reaction -- but a lot of them at our preview screening reacted as if watching a haunted house movie where laugh-filled responses seemingly outweighed fear.

That didn't happen in "Jaws" as the characters felt real and fleshed out. Here, they just feel like fleshy pawns designed to goose viewers and elicit shock-based responses. Some of that works okay on that basic level, but it otherwise means we'll have to wait for another attempt to dethrone 42-year-old Bruce the Shark from his role as king of the cinematic seas. "47 Meters Down" rates as a 5 out of 10.

Reviewed June 14, 2017 / Posted June 16, 2017

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