47 Meters Down: Uncaged (2019) Review
DEAD IN THE WATER
Back in 2017, in a summer time release of favorable / anticipated movie releases like Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Wonder Woman, Spider-Man: Homecoming, and War for the Planet of the Apes, the release of 47 Meters Down was a bit of a surprise. Directed by Johannes Roberts, the film, which starred Mandy Moore and Claire Holt, follows two sisters (Lisa and Katie) who are invited to cage dive while on holiday in Mexico. When the winch system holding the cage breaks and the cage plummets to the ocean floor with the two girls trapped inside, they must find a way to escape, with their air supplies running low and great white sharks stalking nearby. Despite getting mixed reviews (from average to negative criticism), the movie was able to make roughly $62 million at the box office against its $5.3 production budget; considered as a box office success. Now, Entertainment Studios Motion Pictures and director Johannes Roberts present the spiritual follow-up sequel with 47 Meters Down: Uncaged. Does this movie sink its teeth into some cinematic entertainment or is it one film that’s dead in the water?
After been recently relocated to a Mexican beach town, high schooler Mia (Sophie Nelisse) is struggling with local bullies who try make her feel unwelcome within the school. Mia’s stepsister, Sasha (Corinne Fox), is little help, focusing her attention on a party weekend with her friends Nicole (Sistine Stallone) and Alexa (Brianne Tju). When their father, Grant (John Corbett), an underwater research explorer, is needed as a guide to help with an archaeological trip to visit an ancient Mayan city that’s hidden underwater nearby, he pushes for his kids to take a tourist boat to see sharks together; hoping that the excursion would help the two sister to bond together. However, right before the two get on the tour, Nicole and Alexa arrive to steal Sasha away, who drags Mia with her as the foursome explore a secret entrance to the ruins, using diving equipment to get a closer look. However, once down within the undersea depth of the ruins, their simple fun turns into a living hell when an old, battered shark is found roaming the area, leaving the girls trapped with the predator’s realm when loose walls crumble…. blocking their exit.
THE GOOD / THE BAD
Ugh….I remember seeing 47 Meters Down. Despite its shark premise nuances (of sorts), I wasn’t that too much impressed with this. Sure, there have been some shark survival themed movies that have actually worked such as Jaws (the original one) and 2016’s The Shallows, but 47 Meters Down just felt like a cheap / watered-down version of those movies; something akin to a DTV (Direct-to-Video) release. I mean, the movie’s plot was paper thin, the characters were generic and boring, the dialogue was cheesy, and the so-called “twist” felt unsatisfying. It’s no wonder why this movie ended up on my Top 10 Worst Movies of 2017.
Flash forward to 2019 and now we have 47 Meters Down: Uncaged, the somewhat spiritual successor to the 2017 movie. As I mentioned, despite its negative reviews, 47 Meters Down makes a return on its production investment at the box office, which is probably why they (the studio hivemind) decided to greenlight another movie (originally titled 47 Meters Down: The Next Chapter). I really didn’t hear much about this film until I saw the movie trailer for it and (much like the first one) I wasn’t quite impressed. It just seemed like a lot like the first one (just with a different cast and few small changes). Still, I decided to check the movie to see if this second endeavor was gonna be better than the first one. What did I think of it? Despite a very slight improvement in a few areas, 47 Meters Down: Uncaged just feels derivate and weakly undercooked from start to finish. Like the original film, the intent is there, but this movie just feels just as noisy, cartoon-ish, and nonsensical as its predecessor.
Returning to the director’s chair for 47 Meters Down: Uncaged is Johannes Roberts, who previously directed the first 47 Meters Down as well as Storage 24, The Other Side of the Door, and The Strangers: Prey at Night. Thus, given his knowledge of the first film, Roberts seems like a suitable choice for directing this spiritual successor to his 2017 endeavor. Thus, Roberts knows of what the Uncaged’s viewers want and certainly “dives” right into the feature’s particular nuances of its characters and within the underwater terror that awaits them in the darken undersea depths. Like before, the movie does run a brisk runtime (clocking in around 89 minutes long), so the movie does sort of “get in and get out” quickly within its narrative, which is kind of a good and bad thing (I’ll elaborate more below on it). Of course, the main reason why many viewers would view 47 Meters Down: Uncaged is within it’s main attraction…aka…. the shark attacks. Yes, they are thee in the film with Robertson showcasing the bloody waters with some vicious attacks from these undersea predators. Thus, if you enjoyed the first one (in some way), you’ll probably find some enjoyment with 47 Meters Down: Uncaged.
In its presentation, 47 Meters Down: Uncaged does exactly the same “look and feel” from the first movie, which is a bit of a good and bad thing as the technical presentation wasn’t exactly a bad thing in the original feature. However, there’s not a whole lot of creative ingenuity. Then again…. I really didn’t expect a whole lot in that back department in a filmmaking endeavor like this. That being said, I did like how the movie setting is primarily focused in a sunken Mayan underwater city ruins, which does add a kind of claustrophobic feel to the surroundings as well as some cool looking production designs. So, good job on production designs by David Bryan and the art direction team (Thomas Bryan, Miguel Llorca, Maria Fernanda Sabogal, and John West). Plus, there are two or three good cinematography shots that I was impressed with, so kudos to cinematographer Mark Silk. Lastly, the film’s score, which was composed by tomandandy, gets the job done. It’s not exactly the most riveting piece of movie scoring I’ve heard, but it’s quite suitable / passable for a project like this.
Unfortunately, much like the first movie, 47 Meters Down: Uncaged comes up more empty-handed and hollower than a genuine pleasure of thrills and scares within its shark survival premise. What’s the problem? Well, it’s all pretty much the same problematic criticisms that plague the first 47 Meters Down movie. The movie’s story, which does offer a bit more character builds than the previous feature, does little engage viewers that the commonplace tropes of a survival movie. The screenplay, which was penned by the same duo as before (Roberts and Ernest Riera) does (for the most part) the exact same thing. Yes, there is a bit more of backstory for some of the main characters, which I do like, but the initial setup of everything and how a lot of scenarios would play out is just completely and utterly thin and underdeveloped. The weakness of the story’s narrative is once again the main culprit of the feature, which doesn’t help the same recycled beats from both the first 47 Meters Down and other similar projects. I mean…seriously…. more high school teens protagonists. I guess the cliché of high school teenagers getting caught in a survival mode life and death type situation is still a thing?
Adding to that problem is that movie employs the now commonplace of “jump scares” tactics a lot in the movie. This is not a terrible thing to utilizes, but the movie doesn’t a lot and ends up “cheapening” the whole experience. Like everything moment / situation that the film’s characters get in trouble, there’s a jump scare scene that is followed by a shark attack and the girls screaming and frantically trying to swim away. That’s pretty much the entire movie (in a nutshell). There’s not a whole lot to the movie. Yes, like I mentioned above, the whole sunken city ruins setting is something different that I wasn’t expecting (rather than in the wide-open space of the sea like before), but it all feels repetitive after a few scenes and doesn’t really feel exciting. Additionally, the dialogue between a lot of the characters is either stupid or just cringeworthy with plenty of “bonehead” conversations and / or decisions being made.
And let’s not forget the shaky camera work in the water, which sort of distorts a lot of what’s going on in many sequences. I do understand that the shaky camera technique is to provide viewers with a more “life like” cinematic experience, but not at the expense blurring what’s going on. This is most apparent in several of shark encounters, which can bet a bit confusing (visually speaking) to see what’s exactly going on. On top of that, there are several key moments where you (as the viewer) must suspend your disbelief. One or twice in a movie like this is okay, but there are several glaring ones that occur in this film that will make you scratch your head and say “Oh, come on!”. It’s a cheesy feel to it all that makes it less satisfying as the narrative progresses. This all coincides with perhaps the biggest culprit of the movie, which is the overall formulaic and predictable nature. Again, with Roberts directing (with his collaboration Riera on the screenplay), 47 Meters Down: Uncaged just feels like an unsatisfying rehash of the first film. Of course, there are a few minor tweaks here and there, but it’s all pretty much the same….and not in a good way. To me, it just feels like B-rated TV movie (like something you would see on the Syfy channel or as a DTV release…. of which it really should’ve been).
The cast in 47 Meters Down: Uncaged isn’t exactly the best as well as the characters builds of which is written for them. The film’s main quartet of female protagonist characters, with actresses Sophie Nélisse (The Book Thief and Close) as Mia and Corrine Fox (Sweet / Vicious) as Sasha acting as the main focus on the movie, while actresses Brianne Tju (Light as a Feather and Corey in the House) as Alexa and Sistine Rose Stallone (Sylvester Stallone’s daughter making her acting debut) acts as the more of the secondary leads. This quartet is fine, but there’s not a whole lot of character builds for them to play off of, which makes their portrayal of their respective characters bland and weak. Plus, the cheesy hampered dialogue doesn’t quite help these characters any more interesting than beyond their thinly-written setup. There some mentioning of several events of the past (Mia and Sasha’s relationship), but those are quite fleeting. Plus, the acting talents of these four are…at best…mediocre. Nothing grand. To the point, however, these four characters quite uninteresting…. plain and simple.
The rest of the cast, including veteran actor John Corbett (My Big Fat Greek Wedding and The Messengers) as Mia and Sasha’s dad (Grant), actress Brec Bassinger (Bella and the Bulldogs and All Night) as Catherine, actor Khylin Rhambo (Ender’s Game and Teen Wolf) as Carl, and actor Davi Santos (Tell Me a Story and Law & Order True Crime) as Ben, are just simply caricatures; meant for cannon fodder vessels for the sharks to eventually attack or just to simply pointless filler time. Collectively (of the entire cast), what’s made even worse is that the movie doesn’t have enough time devoted to these characters to make them wholesome or even to physically or literally care about. Naturally, all of these acting talents do their best with the material given to them, but it’s quite clear that neither Roberts or Riera only desired to them thinly-sketched caricatures for the movie’s story and nothing more.
Hell isn’t made of fire and brimstone, but rather the relentless slog through the depths of the underwater abyss (and predators that swim therein) in the movie 47 Meters Down: Uncaged. Director Johannes Roberts film doesn’t have grandiose expectations for this endeavor; finding a sort of “B-rated” tropes within this shark survival tale. Unfortunately, while a few snippets of its production designs and some peaked moments of terror, the movie is terribly bland (a combination of a thinly written narrative, uninteresting characters, predictable suspense, and just a weak overall feature). Personally, I didn’t pretty care for this movie. Yes, I think it’s a bit of an improvement from the original 2017, but that’s not really saying much as the foundation that this franchise (of sorts) isn’t really that spectacular or creatively innovated. So, despite those few positives, the movie just weighed down even further by making the same stupid mistakes. It’s still not as bad as the Sharknado movies, but this movie does little to stir any excitement. Thus, my recommendation for this movie is a solid “skip it” as it’s cheesy and underdeveloped viewing experience doesn’t really warrant a looksee in any viewing platform (i.e. in theaters, home release, rental, TV, etc.). In the end, despite a few takeaways, 47 Meters Down: Uncaged is just a flat out bore with little engagement within its undercooked thrills of the underwater terrors of the deep and weak protagonist characters to even care about throughout its 89-minute runtime.
2.1 Out of 5 (Skip It)
Released On: August 16th, 2019
Reviewed On: August 21th, 2019
47 Meters Down: Uncaged is 89 minutes long and is rated PG-13 for sequences of intense peril, bloody images, and brief strong language