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Saturday, August 24, 2019

Review: 47 Meters Down: Uncaged

Director: Johannes Roberts
Screenplay: Johannes Roberts and Ernest Riera
Year: 2019

Synopsis: Four friends go diving in a cave that hosts an old indigenous sunken city. During their exploration of the site, they end up trapped in the cave with not much oxygen in their tanks and with no clue of where to go to escape. The labyrinth that is this cave is only one of their problems, as inside it live ferocious albino sharks who are blind but that have all their other senses heightened. 

“47 Meters Down” is an independent movie that was destined for a direct-to-video release without going through movie theaters. Close to its release date, a distribution studio bought it, renamed it and released to theaters. To the surprise of many, this movie that cost $5.5 million to make, made about $44 million, turning it into a great success and being well received by audiences. Knowing these numbers, it was a matter of time before a sequel was in talks, reason that gives birth to “47 Meters Down: Uncaged”.

This unrelated sequel shares Johannes Roberts (“The Strangers: Prey At Night”) as director and the same Roberts and Ernest Riera (“The Other Side Of The Door”), but is a completely new story that holds no relationship with its predecessor. If you saw “47 Meters Down” it should not be a surprise that they are not related because of how it ends. This new story takes place in Yucatán, México and the group of young people that will serve as shark snacks is composed of a cast of novel unknown talents, most of them in their acting debut.

Mia, interpreted by Sophie Nélisse (“The Book Thief”) and her stepsister Sasha, interpreted by Corinne Foxx are convinced by their friends Alexa (Brianne Tju) and Nicole (Sistine Stallone) to go on an adventure. Part of this adventure consists in dive into a cave that hosts an old sunken Maya city. Once inside the cave, they all end up trapped and to the mercy of white sharks, adapted to living in low light conditions, who evolved to lose their vision, but heighten the rest of their senses.

The movie starts with some family drama to try and give some backstory so that the adventure of our bait (I meant protagonists) doesn’t feel forced and to create some sympathy towards them. On the former it succeeds and, in the latter, fails. The character development is the weakest point alongside the dialogues and once they get the scuba gear on, it becomes a task differentiating one from the other. However, we are not interested in this movie because of its dialogues but rather on what takes place underwater.  Roberts is aware of this and without wasting much time it throws the adventurers to the water. 

Once in the water, the tension is elevated to the maximum, even when the promised sharks have not yet made an entry. The girls get inside the maze that is this cave, considered by the Mayans the underworld and a place where human sacrifices were made (a trend to continue), and shortly thereafter they get trapped inside with their oxygen tanks slowly depleting, a daunting situation even without sharks. The scenario in which these girls find themselves reminded me a lot of “The Descent”; a group of young women get trapped in a cave and are attacked by blind albino creatures with heightened senses is so similar that a more proper title for it would have been 47 Meters Down: The Descent.

Finally, the sharks appear and they do it in a sudden way, which becomes a constant. The sharks are greatly used throughout the movie presenting a constant danger. The design of the albino sharks is frightening, but they are clearly created using CGI and in many instances, they don’t look as good as they should. The danger and expectation that the sharks create in part is achieved by how the shots are mainly done very close to the characters, limiting the field of vision and transmitting to the viewer the sense of claustrophobia from the tight tunnels of the cave and tension from the limited visibility.

“47 Meters Down: Uncaged” was a lot more than what I expected. The acting is decent, and the jump scares and shark attacks scenes are effective and keep the tension high at all times. Of course, some comments can be made about its simple script or lazy character development, but I don’t think those are fundamental elements for what this movie proposes. I have seen that it has received plenty of negative critiques and I really don’t understand why or what kind of movie those people were expecting. “47 Meters Down: Uncaged” proposes a simple idea that ends up being more effective than its predecessor and en excellent shark movie that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

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