47 METRES DOWN: UNCAGED

FAILS TO SURFACE

THEATRICAL REVIEW
By Jake Watt
31st October 2019

‘Deep Blue Sea’. ‘Ghost Shark’. ‘Bait’. ‘Shark Night’. ‘The Reef’. ‘Open Water’.

If there’s anything that these last four decades of ‘Jaws’ knock-offs and wannabes have taught us, it’s that it takes a Steven Spielberg-level talent to make a great movie about a killer shark.

A sequel to ‘47 Metres Down’ and again directed by Johannes Roberts, ‘47 Metres Down: Uncaged’ follows awkward Mia (Sophie Nélisse, ‘The Book Thief’) and popular Sasha (Corinne Foxx, daughter of Jamie). These teenage stepsisters don’t really connect, as we see when Sasha doesn’t bother to protect Mia from the mean girls at school who bully her for no apparent reason. To help the two of them bond, their dad (a lethargic John Corbett, 'Sex in the City 2', Netflix's 'To All the Boys I've Loved Before') signs them up for a class that will travel out to the ocean on a boat to observe sharks being fed chum. No, I don't know how watching a feeding frenzy is supposed to bring the two girls together, either.

In a reluctant effort to atone, Sasha invites Mia to tag along when she and two friends, Alexa (Brianne Tju) and Nicole (Sistine Stallone, daughter of Sly), skip the class outing to go scuba diving into a submerged Mayan city that their dad is mapping for some archaeologists.

But first, the girls spend some time frolicking in bikinis under a waterfall. A montage, set to an irritating song called 'Somewhere In My Heart' by the band Aztec Camera, ensues.

'47 METRES DOWN: UNCAGED' TRAILER

If your expectations haven't already been lowered by the wonky dialogue and acting early on, then don’t worry: a jump-scare involving a screaming CGI fish will soon take care of that.

The vast cave containing the Mayan city is deep underwater, and happens to have its own little ecosystem of fish - including two blind and rubbery-looking man-eating sharks. Why send the girls to see sharks when the sharks can come to them unexpectedly, right?

Unfolding like a combination of ‘The Shallows’ and the horticultural suspense thriller ‘The Ruins’, elements of ancient caverns and a well-intentioned trip to Mexico going horribly awry are present and accounted for, but they don’t feel fresh in spite of the tropical terrain. Underground tunnel systems and civilisations are similar to what we saw in ‘The Meg’ - with a subocean under the Pacific where evolution works differently - and something ‘Godzilla II: King of the Monsters’ did this year with its Hollow Earth plot wrinkle.

The girls are barely fleshed out. Mia and Sasha have a strained kinship being stepsiblings of different racial backgrounds, although there is no substantive resentment or rift or drama between the two. In actuality, they don’t click simply because Sasha is popular at school and Mia isn't.

There’s never much doubt about who’s going to wind up as shark chum, since the one-dimensional conflict between the stepsisters demands a climactic bonding moment; the film throws in a few generic dudes (working in another part of the submerged city) for additional carnage, and also makes one character such a selfish moron that her inevitable demise feels almost deserved.

If your expectations haven't already been lowered by the wonky dialogue and acting early on, then don’t worry: a jump-scare involving a screaming CGI fish will soon take care of that.

While I understand that filmmakers have to take certain liberties with realism in a horror film, I also scuba dive. So there were a few storytelling choices in ‘47 Metres Down: Uncaged’ that particularly annoyed me.

‪When you’re underwater, you communicate with hand signals because your ears are blocked with water. For example, moving your hand in front of your nose like you’re tracing the shape of a banana means, “fuck knows?” Whereas in this film, everyone just talks normally as if they were characters in ‘Aquaman’. They don’t have respirators in their mouths, either. The film offers up a fictional solution to this - the masks have some kind of built-in speaker and microphone - but the underwater chatter and constant yelling is very distracting.

Water gets colder the deeper you dive, which is why you wear a wetsuit, not colour-coded bikini bottoms. We get a vague explanation that the Caribbean water is warm but, for anyone who has trouble telling the girls apart underwater, all you need to know is they die in the order of how skimpy their clothing is.

Finally, fish do not shriek like possums when startled. I don’t care how surprised they are.

While the blind sharks are cartoonishly goofy, the film actually has potential with its claustrophobia and thalassophobia elements - the dangers of disturbing the silt on the cave floor and getting lost in an underwater maze is briefly mentioned. The Mayan ruins provide an interesting setting - while most of the film is visually unappealing, with too many greenish and brackish hues, it sometimes makes good use of the close quarters and lighting to build tension.

The climactic scene of the film is an absurdist wonder, with three fake-outs in the span of a couple short minutes. Mia also has an underwater slow-mo 'Matrix' moment with a flare gun that made me wish the rest of the movie had been that outrageously dumb.

‘47 Metres Down: Uncaged’ doesn’t have the inventiveness of ‘The Shallows’, the intensity and drive of ‘Crawl’, the fun of ‘The Meg’ or the gore of ‘Piranha 3D’ but, for a few fleeting moments, it does feel vaguely like an underwater version of ‘The Descent’. If only the characters could have shut the fuck up and let me enjoy that aspect.

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