Mandy Moore Makes for Charming Shark Bait in ’47 Meters Down’

Dealing with a breakup is never an easy thing to do, but getting stranded at the bottom of the sea is not a part of anyone’s healing process. For Lisa (Mandy Moore) and Kate (Claire Holt, “The Originals”), the fear of being alone and dealing with abandonment becomes a reality when they find themselves plummeted – you guessed it – 47 meters below the ocean surface during a cage-dive excursion gone wrong. A hoard of great white sharks swimming above them makes it difficult for the sisters to swim back to the top as their air supply runs dangerously short. A few failed rescue attempts leave the sisters with no choice but to brave the open water in terrifying sequences that will make you, quite literally, hold your breath.

Fresh off the heels of her hit NBC television show, “This Is Us,” “47 Meters Down” marks the first leading big-screen role for Moore since her 2007 turn in “License to Wed.” Although the starlet has never tackled a thriller before, she provides a harrowing and vulnerable performance. However, this isn’t a level of vulnerability audiences will be familiar seeing her in, like on “This Is Us.” This vulnerability is associated with raw, primal fear. Her supporting cast, including Matthew Modine (“Stranger Things”), Yani Gellman (“Pretty Little Liars”), Santiago Segura (“Scream: The TV Series”), and Chris Johnson (“The Vampire Diaries”) all fit the bill as the adventurous boat crew. However, it is truly Moore who carries the picture.

Shark movies have made a rather polarizing resurgence during the past couple of years. From the cheesy camp of the Syfy Channel’s “Sharknado” franchise—now five installments deep—to the forthcoming Jason Statham shark flick, “Meg,” which carries a hefty $150 million price tag, shark movies seem to be in vogue again. Not only does “47 Meters Down” offer up a refreshing premise that reels in the viewer, but it also bestows an elevating sense of tension that intensifies as it races against the impending loss of air.

What makes “47 Meters Down” stand out from the rest is the brilliant direction helmed by Johannes Roberts (“The Other Side of the Door” and the upcoming “The Strangers 2”), who also shares a co-writer title. Roberts manages to capture a claustrophobic feeling at the bottom of the sea. Of course, the true horror of “47 Meters Down” works best when the characters are out of the cage, helpless, and surrounded by nothing but water. Vulnerability combined with the unknowingness of what might pop out of the depths of the sea aid in building unnerving tension.

Through the use of lighting, or lack thereof, on the sea floor, Roberts creates tension that leaves room for some effective jump-scares. Typically, this is a cheap trick, but in the case of “47 Meters Down” it should be applauded. It is quite evident that Roberts is honing his genre-helming skills.

A solid film through and through, “47 Meters Down” is slightly weakened by the addition of a ‘twist’ ending. In a similar vein to the ending of “The Descent,” the final act attempts to play with the character’s sanity in an attempt to erase and negate a portion of the storyline. The viewer doesn’t need to pay close attention to filter out the predictable twist, but it doesn’t hinder the rest of the film too much. And yes, the sharks are computer-generated but nowhere as bad as a “Sharknado” film.

Originally set to be a direct-to-DVD bargain bin pick-up, “47 Meters Down” was saved from purgatory by Freestyle Films shortly after quietly dropping on the shelves of a few retailers last summer. Premise and execution prove that “47 Meters Down” is worthy of its now-nationwide theatrical release.

47 Meters Down” opens in theaters nationwide on June 16.