Summer Means Sharks

‘This Is Us’ star Mandy Moore goes deep in underwater thriller

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47 Meters Down
Starring Mandy Moore, Claire Holt & Matthew Modine
Directed by Johannes Roberts

Ever since Jaws in 1975, it hasn’t really felt like summer without sharks.

That landmark movie officially introduced the ocean’s alpha predator to pop culture, and the shark has remained an entertainment staple ever since.

So come on in the water!

The Discovery Channel launched its hugely popular block of Shark Week programming in the 1980s. Since 2013, there have been five Sharknado movies, schlocky horror-comedy disaster TV flicks about tornados filled with sharks. Last summer, Blake Lively played a surfer menaced by a great white in The Shallows. (72)_rgb

Kate (Claire Holt) and Lisa (Mandy Moore) prepare to take the plunge.

Now, in 47 Meters Down, two sisters on a vacation getaway in Mexico find themselves trapped in a shark cage at the bottom of the ocean, running out of oxygen in their scuba tanks, cut off from communication with the excursion boat above them—and yes, surrounded by sharks.

How did they get there? Well, the spunky younger sister, Kate (Claire Holt, who played Rebekah Mikaelson on The Vampire Diaries and now on its spinoff, The Originals) convinced Lisa (Mandy Moore, from TV’s This Is Us) to do something brash and daring to help shake off the funk of a recent breakup with her boyfriend.

Watching sharks is perfectly safe, some locals tell them. “Like you go to the zoo, except you’re in the cage,” one says.

“Think of the photos!” says Kate excitedly, envisioning some awesome underwater Instagram and Snapchat posts.

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Taylor (Matthew Modine) prepares his customers for their dive in the shark cage.

So Kate and Lisa agree to hop aboard a rust bucket of a boat, the Sea Esta, for a shark excursion. Their captain and guide, Taylor (Matthew Modine), takes his vessel far out into open water, gives the sisters a crash course in their gear and assures them everything will be fine. Taylor’s assistant chums the water with a bucket of fish heads and blood. “Here fishy, fishy…” he calls out.

In just a moment, a 20-foot-long great white breaks the surface.

Taylor tells Kate and Lisa he’ll lower them in the cage to about five meters, or about 16 feet, below the surface, and they’ll be in constant radio contact through their scuba masks.

Almost as soon as Kate and Lisa go underwater in the tank, they drop their waterproof camera. It falls through the rusty metal bars of the cage and floats into the murky water below—where it’s immediately swallowed into the massive maw of a huge shark, who sweeps out of nowhere and comes so close that the girls can almost touch it.

Then the unthinkable happens. The wench unspooling the cable to the cage breaks loose from the boat, sending the whole setup plunging down, down, down to the bottom—47 meters down, more than 150 feet.

47MD_Still021_rgb (72)British director Johannes Roberts knows how to startle, spook and surprise. Even if you didn’t see any of his previous flicks, the titles alone—The Other Side of the Door, Forest of the Damned, Hellbreeder—should give you a pretty good indication that he loves poking around dark corners, keeping audiences guessing, and cranking up the suspense.

The underwater sequences were filmed in a tank and the sharks are computer-generated, but Kate and Lisa’s situation feels “real” enough that audiences will get several good, genuine jolts as their circumstances go from very bad to even worse and their resourcefulness—and desperate survival instincts—come into play.

Moore and Holt do commendable jobs, sealed up inside scuba suits, delivering their lines via radio transmitters in their masks and performing most of the movie submerged. Director Roberts and his two aqua-actors spin a tight, concise little water web of peril, tension and excitement—and build to something you totally won’t see coming, unless someone spoils it for you, at the end.

“The shark almost got me!” an alarmed Kate says at one point.

Ok, it’s not Shakespeare, but hey, it is summer—so come on in the water!

In theaters June 16, 2017

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