Movie Review: “47 Meters Down: Uncaged”

Much like “Jaws” before it, the shark-based horror film “47 Meters Down” may seem like an unlikely candidate for a sequel and yet, just like “Jaws,” it continues past the first film.  We now have a second entry in the “47 Meters” series, “47 Meters Down:  Uncaged.”  Where this movie proves better than the sequel to Spielberg’s shark epic is in its decision to head down the anthology route, with no returning cast members and a totally new story.

Directed by Johannes Roberts, who also helmed the first film, “Uncaged” follows a group of girls in Mexico as they, stupidly, choose to do some cave diving.  Things go awry and shark madness ensues.

No one would accuse teenagers in general of constantly looking out for their own best welfare, and that is certainly the case in “Uncaged.”  Of course, if these teens did care in the slightest we wouldn’t have the sequel and the sharks wouldn’t have their snacks.  Somehow the screenplay, which is by Ernest Riera and Roberts manages to sort of motivate the cave diving choice.  That is good for the film and the audience, and pretty bad for the teens:  Mia (Sophie Nellisse), Sasha (Corinne Foxx), Alexa  (Brianne Tju), and Nicole (Sistine Stallone).

In fact, the script spends more time than one might imagine establishing the characters and their relationships to one another (Mia and Sasha are stepsisters, while Alexa and Nicole are Sasha’s friends).  Unfortunately, audiences who go into the movie knowing that it’s a hair under 90 minutes may get antsy that there simply isn’t going to be enough time for sharks.

Such worries are wholly unfounded.  A far larger problem for “Uncaged” is the amount screaming that takes place with the characters when the sharks do appear.  Although it may be logical for the teens to be terrified, having to listen to repeated screams gets tiring very fast.  Being true to life doesn’t always mean being cinematic, and in this one particular instance the film opts for real life and it isn’t a great choice – the screaming too often gets in the way of forward momentum.

The single most impressive thing the sequel has to offer is unquestionably not the plot, but rather the underwater filming.  There is a sense of claustrophobia to the proceedings which works exceptionally well. One could argue that there are times when the whole thing goes too far, when it is simply too difficult to make out what’s going on, and while that is a fine line, leaning slightly towards the overly difficult is a good choice on Roberts’ part.

And yet, the chills are not as strong in this movie as in the original.  The story is not as engaging.  The sharks are not as believable.  “Uncaged” has some good moments and makes for a decent time at the movies, but there’s a sense of diminishing returns from which it can’t escape. The underwater cave city idea is a nice one, and John Corbett works as father/step-father to Mia and Sasha as well as a diver extraordinaire, but there’s a somewhat desperate sense of needing to up-the-game for the sequel that doesn’t sit well.  Additionally, the fact that there are ruins being swum through feels more like window dressing than an essential aspect of the proceedings.

Those looking for a shark fix will no doubt find moments of joy in “47 Meters Down: Uncaged,” and a view of what the “47 Meters Down” franchise might look like comes into relief with this sequel.  Apparently the movies consist of well known actor playing a side role, and sisters with problems as the lead characters.  It is a simple enough formula and one that could prove worthwhile down the line. However, as a whole, this particular entry lacks some of the bite of its predecessor.  Hopefully though the franchise doesn’t go the same way as “Jaws” and slip even further in a third and fourth film.

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photo credit:  Entertainment Studios Motion Pictures

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