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47 Meters Down

Year: 2017
Studio: thefyzz
Director: Johannes Roberts
Writer: Johannes Roberts/Ernest Riera
Cast: Mandy Moore, Claire Holt, Matthew Modine

The concept sells itself - two women trapped on the floor of the ocean after the cable on their shark-watching cage snaps, running out of air and with hungry man-eaters cruising nearby.

All that was left was for the script by Johannes Roberts and Ernest Riera and the directing by Roberts to keep things pacy, compact and not stretch believability too much, and they completely succeed at it.

Sisters Lisa (Mandy Moore) and Kate (Claire Holt) are on holiday in Mexico when they meet some hot local guys, have a good time and take up their offer of the ultimate rush – climbing into a shark proof cage to be dangled in the water amid monsters.

Their backstories and those of the guys hardly matter, and in short order that doesn't feel rushed but doesn't get bogged down in unnecessary exposition, they're in the titular trouble.

Lisa is far more cautious than Kate, which makes for some nice character distinction, and when the cable snaps, down they go – already running out of air and knowing there's at least one monstrous Great White nearby.

Like the efficient set-up, the quick running time makes good use of several well-drawn set pieces as the girls try to make good their escape. The full-face masks letting them talk by radio to each other and the surface (when they're in range) are a good workaround to what would otherwise be a quite plodding movie with no words, and as they hatch a plan and execute it you'll be on the edge of your seat.

It's a very effective scary movie that gets the tone, pace and fright quotient almost perfectly right but there's also a fairly meta element – perhaps unwittingly on the part of the script – that comments on the very genre the movie exists in. It's hard to talk about without giving away the quite heartbreaking third act twist, but when you look back on the movie you realise that the shark threat has been a little bit different under different circumstances.

For most of the film the sharks behave a little bit more like sharks really do – hungry and opportunistic, not like movie sharks that sneak up on victims for maximum dramatic effect, hold grudges for decades or perform feats of predation more suited to serial killers than wild animals.

It's during other sequences that form the backbone of the unexpected twist that they become 'movie' sharks. Rising through the dark depths on a rope, Lisa lights a flare to try and frighten off anything that's nearby, and we're treated to the very cinematic image of three giant sharks just centimetres away, mouths open and ready to bite.

Might the writer and director have been slyly commenting on shark movies and how unrealistic they are? Or was it just a cool final twist to stand the movie apart from the rest of the man-vs-nature genre?

Even if it had been just another giant shark movie, there's a very effective sense of terrified hopelessness and although it's no more than a B movie, everyone from the director to his performers sell it enough to make it the scariest and most affecting it can possibly be.

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