Saturday, June 24, 2017

47 Meters Down Review

It's now time to review our yearly shark thriller! This type of film has practically been a yearly tradition ever since "Jaws" was released in theaters 42 years ago in the summer of 1975. "Jaws" was such a landmark film for so many reasons that filmmakers have endlessly attempted to recapture the magic that Steven Spielberg masterfully created. Yet no shark movie since "Jaws," not even the "Jaws" sequels, have been able to pull off what "Jaws" did. And that's OK to me. I don't expect any shark movie to be on the level of "Jaws" and I'm certainly not going to tear a movie to shreds just because it wasn't as great as "Jaws." I like my shark thrillers. They're fun. Many of them for different reasons. "Jaws" is a very character-driven horror film that does horror right. It's practically the perfect example of how to properly make a horror film. I mean, how many thousands or millions of people have hated going in the water and been terrified of sharks just because of "Jaws"? Brilliant. But then on the complete opposite side of the scale we have "Sharknado," a movie I also love. That movie is so dumb that it's awesome. The key ingredient there is that the movie is so self-aware that they are making an enjoyably awful movie that it's an absolute blast from start to finish.

The problem is when you get a movie that's trying to be the next "Jaws," but ends up being "Sharknado" instead. If you're trying to make a bad movie, it can work. It's a hard balance to find, though, because if you don't capture the magic of purposely bad filmmaking, you can often wind up simply making an awful, unwatchable film with no redeeming qualities. And it can be worse if you were trying to make a good movie, but failed in every way. When I watched the trailers for "47 Meters Down," that's exactly what I thought we were getting. A movie that was trying to be the next "Jaws," but ended up accidentally being on "Sharknado" level in a very bad way. Not helping their case for me was that this was initially intended as a direct to DVD film before an company called Entertainment Studios, who had never distributed a theatrical film before, swiped it up and decided to throw it in theaters. That, combined with the awful trailers, gave me no hope that this was going to be even worth watching. I was expected the critics to lash and give it a score in the teens or single-digits on Rotten Tomatoes. But that's not what happened. Instead initial reviews had this up in the 70 percent range before sliding down and settling in the mid-50's. I was floored.

Pretty soon, I found myself in the theater seeing "47 Meters Down," before "Cars 3" or "All Eyez on Me," both of which were initially higher on my list of movies to see. But even then, I went in expecting a shark thriller that was extremely cheesy and over the top, hopefully in a good way. In the opening sequences of this film, that's exactly what was playing out. We have two sisters on a trip in Mexico. One has recently broken up with her boyfriend, so her sister decides that they need to party hard so that she can forget about him and make him jealous that they're having fun. So of course the logical sequence of events is to party all night then go cage diving with a couple of awesome Mexican dudes that they just barely met and made out with. None of this was even remotely interesting, thus I started to feel like I would be on team shark in this movie, which is not really a good thing when you're trying to make a successful horror film. Then the two of them get into the cage and one of the first things that happens is one girl drops the camera and immediately a giant shark comes and snaps it up. And I was laughing so hard at how ridiculously awful that was. That's the type of movie this is going to be? OK. Let's do it! Bring on the sharks and bring on the cheese!

Then something happened. And no, I'm not talking about the chords breaking on their cage, sending them to the ocean floor. If you didn't know that was going to happen after watching the trailers or looking at the title of the movie, you'll know after the first five minutes that both of these ladies are destined for the ocean floor, 47 meters down. No, by saying that something happened, I mean that the movie actually became a good movie. Not a movie that's so dumb and so cheesy that it's good. A movie that's legitimately good. No, this is not on the level of "Jaws." No shark movie ever will be. But it's also not on the level of "Sharknado," for better or for worse. This is actually very comparable to "The Shallows" from last year, which I also rather enjoyed. I thought "The Shallows" was very complimentary to "Jaws" in that "Jaws" is a movie where a killer shark terrorizes an entire town while "The Shallows" is a movie where a killer shark terrorizes one girl who is unfortunately trapped on a small rock off the shore of an empty beach, with no way of getting a hold of anyone. While "The Shallows" also doubled as a Blake Lively photo shoot, she also managed to give a pretty good performance as a girl stricken after being trapped close to a killer shark.

I do think it's worth mentioning at this point that if you are not a fan of shark thrillers, "47 Meters Down" is not the movie that's going to covert you to this sub-genre of horror. If you're one of those people that's hated every shark movie since "Jaws," then skip "47 Meters Down." It's simply. But if you're like me and you've enjoyed a lot of different shark thrillers for many different reasons, then this is a movie to go see. Once these ladies fall to the bottom of the ocean in the cage, the movie actually becomes fairly intense. The two of them are trapped so far down that there's no service with their little walkie-talkie things and they have to figure out how to escape and survive this situation in a timely manner because their air is slowly running out. This often requires them to sneak out of the cage for certain periods of time where there is a danger of running into a shark. I was worried that this was going to be a gore-fest with a lot of shark attacks. It wasn't. I thought it was going to be 90 minutes of girls screaming at the camera with cheesy sharks surrounding them, trying to have a quick, easy dinner. It wasn't. Mandy Moore and Claire Holt are our two main girls and I quickly came to care for their characters and was rooting for their escape.

One thing I think this movie really does right is that our shark scenes are held to a minimum. The suspense comes in play mainly due to the unknown. The movie teases us at the beginning with sharks, informing us that they're there, but then the movie chooses not to reveal them very often, leaving us in suspense because we know they're there, yet we don't know when they're going to show up. So every time one of the girls swims out of the cage, things become suspenseful. And the discount John Williams theme is good enough to make the scenes suspenseful while not sounding too much like that classic score that every knows, even those who haven't seen "Jaws." When the sharks do show up, I think they made me jump every time. I'm not one who usually gets tricked by horror movie jump scares, but these got me. Then they quickly went away, leaving us in suspense again. This leads me to my next point. When compared to other shark thrillers, these sharks are fairly realistic. They aren't killer sharks that are out to get these girls. They're just there minding their own business when these girls invade their space. When the girls get too close, we get a brief chase sequence, then the shark goes away. I was successfully scared of these sharks throughout the whole movie.

Granted, no shark movie is going to be perfectly realistic. Not every shark movie is as ridiculous as "Sharknado," but not even "Jaws" gives an honest portrayal of how sharks really act. If you expect that out of your shark movies, then you're going to be disappointed every time because a perfectly realistic shark movie is going to be very boring because sharks aren't quite as scary and evil as "Jaws" and all of our "Jaws" wannabees make them out to be. You mind your business and they'll mind there's. But that doesn't make for a good horror movie, so you have to suspend your belief when you go into these movies. But comparatively, I think "47 Meters Down" is a lot more realistic and terrifying than some, which pleasantly surprised me because I was expecting a full out cheese fest, but didn't get it. I'll also quickly say that this movie has a very bold ending that I didn't see coming. My whole theater was floored at this twist, with all sorts of different reactions. Listening to those reactions was rather satisfying. It might turn people off, but I applauded it. That's all I'll say there. In summary, my final recommendation is simple. If you are like me and you enjoy shark thrillers, then check this one out. If you hate shark movies, then skip it. My grade for "47 Meters Down" is an 8/10.

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