“Don’t get eaten by a shark.”
On one hand, 47 Meters Down: Uncaged is a rather impressive piece of moviemaking. It’s a bolder film than the original, as well as a less personal one, and this seafaring horror story is at its best when the quartet of ladies are loitering around in a sunken city without permission slips. However, on the other hand these characters all fit the bill without much creativity, and the predictable scares prove to be far more bland than they are toothsome. For better and for worse, Uncaged unfolds as expected, and the film unsuccessfully tries to brand itself as a lifeguard’s dual waving red flags. It isn’t scary enough to keep us from wading into the water.
This survive or be swallowed story begins in the equally treacherous currents of high school. New in town and unwelcome by her piranha like peers, Mia (Sophie Nélisse) gets pushed into the swimming pool by a bully, with her step-sister Sasha (Corinne Foxx) refusing to come to her aide. Their mom Jennifer (Nia Long) tries to smooth over the situation. Meanwhile, the dad Grant (John Corbett) suggests a touristy trip between the girls to help them bond. That’s uncool, and so they follow Sasha’s venturous friend Alexa (Brianne Tju) and the reckless Nicole (Sistine Rose Stallone) to a cavernous, secret swimming hole. The surface drama is nothing compared to what’s stirring below.
An afternoon of suntanning and swimming soon turns to what’s supposed to be a quick scuba dive, which is the head-scratching point in the story where audiences are asked to take the same leap of faith as the characters in the film. All these girls can dive? The gear happened to be there because Grant is a diver himself? We’re sure it’s safe if you only go so far? Nobody knew these were shark infested waters? Most of the movie’s plot is extremely convenient in the middle, to the point that we’re left watching the girls as they manage their oxygen while we patiently hold our breath. And despite all of the possible hiccups, the film actually ends up working pretty well in chunks, although a few big issues keep it from breaking through the surface of B movie territory.
The archetype characters are easy and convenient but hardly fulfilling. And worst of all, the cobbled together editing and the jarring camera placement occasionally loses track of where the people are oriented in the frame, sometimes to the point that you literally cannot tell what is going on (if that was a stylistic choice, I’d call it a questionable one). But the movie still swims along at a good pace, it’s rarely boring yet hardly great, and director Johannes Roberts (who should get calls to graduate towards bigger projects) makes the most of the material. Apropos to the title, 47 Meters Down: Uncaged expands the arena of 2017’s 47 Meters Down with what I’m sure was a bigger budget and what has some seriously impressive underwater production throughout. It’s too bad that the story itself isn’t free from the same limiting tropes.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5