47 Meters Down

Jun 15, 2017

Consult this movie before you scuba dive in Mexico.

47 Meters Down

Grade: B+

Director: Johannes Roberts (The Other Side of the Door)

Screenplay: Roberts, Ernest Riera (The Other Side of the Door)

Cast: Mandy Moore (The Princess Diaries), Claire Holt (Mean Girls 2)

Rating: PG-13

Runtime: 89 min.

by John DeSando

Before your scuba dive this summer, be it a deep one or a hotel run for beginners, see Johannes Roberts’ 47 Meters Down. While it may not deter you, it will make crystal clear what the dangers are, and they are not all sharks, by any means. Oh, yes, no Blake Lively bikini cheese (Shallows), just nice looking young women not modeling their bods and a director who respects that restraint.

Sisters Lisa and Kate are in Mexico, Lisa a world traveler and Kate just trying to get over the boyfriend who found her boring. At this point the weak sister trope is alive and kicking for a horror film. Also at play is writer Johannes’ willingness to flesh out more of their characters in the short time until they descend, after a broken winch, 154 feet in a shark cage for some up close and personal viewing.

As Steven Spielberg did so famously in Jaws, we don’t get too much shark because the film is carefully crafted to keep the suspense the main arbiter of our shock. As in Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity, the shots are tight inside and outside the masks to increase the claustrophobic sense of helplessness with the dangers out of sight but not of mind. As in  Neill Marshall’s The Descent, young women are caught in tight cave circumstances with no help above.

Even the soothing Captain’s voice (Matthew Modine) can’t mitigate the twin fears of shark and oxygen. Nice Captain Taylor goes against the stereotype grain of a surly buccaneer.

The quiet as the girls ration oxygen is deafening.  In fact the dwindling oxygen  becomes the real menace when they get dangerously close to empty, thoughts of sharks almost forgotten in the face of death by oxygen deprivation.

Adding to the thrills is the sense that we are there because real time is clicking away for us as well. I am also impressed how the filmmakers rely less on standard tropes like jump scares (although a couple do accompany shark visitations) and rely on good old suspense generated by our imaginations and the red dials signaling depth and oxygen, like the big numbered bomb readouts in cheesy heist movies.

So go to the beach and rent scuba equipment if you must. As for the shark cage, be advised of the dangers.

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at