After the surprising success of last year's "girl with shark" thriller "The Shallows," "47 Meters Down" seems to be posing the question, "what if 'The Shallows' went deep?" (And you know exactly how deep from the title). This time there are two girls, not just the one, though star Mandy Moore is ostensibly the lead in this claustrophobic underwater nightmare, directed by Johannes Roberts, written by Roberts and Ernest Riera.
Back in '75, "Jaws" inspired audiences to stay out of the water, and thanks to "47 Meters Down" cage-diving might see a dip in popularity this summer. If there's a message to be found in this film, it's to never do things that scare you. It's not worth the risk. Just stay at the resort, sipping cocktails at the pool. Being boring is better than being chum.
Fear of "boring" is what gets Lisa (Moore) into the water, against her better instincts, with her adventuresome sister Kate (Claire Holt). She sets off for a day trip cage-diving with great whites with no scuba certification, in an unlicensed rust trap of a boat. Kate and Lisa have 30 seconds of a good time before they're trapped in the cage on the ocean floor, surrounded by massive sharks.
Part of what made "The Shallows" fun to watch was Blake Lively's resourcefulness and near superhuman prowess as she battled a shark atop a coral outcropping. Moore, well, she's relatable. Constantly hyperventilating, most of her dialogue is high-pitched wheezing and whimpering, interspersed with descriptions of things she's doing: "I got the flashlight"; "the shark almost got me!" There's something sweetly realistic in her performance.
While the script itself stays on the surface, merely serving the function to explain just how Lisa ended up in this situation, Roberts creates a few sequences that capture how vast, mysterious and terrifying the deep sea can be. Its depths are impenetrable, filled with horrifyingly massive predators lurching from just beyond visibility. There is one stunningly beautiful shot lit with a flare and a flashlight, but trapped on the bottom of the ocean, most of the film is a dark, murky, blue-ish gray, performers emoting with their eyes behind a mask. Even the sharks don't get enough screen time.
"47 Meters Down" doesn't have the campy sparkle that made "The Shallows" a cult hit, but it's the kind of cheesy thriller that's good for a few jumps and a few chuckles at its own silliness. You may never scuba dive again, but "47 Meters Down" can offer a cooling aquatic thrill on a hot summer's day.
Katie Walsh is a Tribune News Service film critic.
'47 Meters Down'
Rated: PG-13 for sequences of intense peril, bloody images, and brief strong language.
Running time: 1 hour, 29 minutes
Playing: In general release