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Siraj Syed


Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for FilmFestivals.com and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. 

 

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47 Meters Down-Uncaged, Review: Shallow Attempt at Hollow Horror

This underwater horror-survival movie takes its cameras and main cast down 47 meters (going by the title) and discovers a Mayan labyrinth of caves and cages. When one cage is broken open, out come deadly sharks. Oh, they are as blind as dead bats, but as hungry as whale-sized ravens. Why did four teenage girls venture into uncharted oceanic depths, and will any of them re-surface alive? To find out, you will have to endure some amateurish story-telling and some cyclical, repetitive scares.

Mia and Sasha are step-sisters. Sasha’s mother Jennifer is black and father Grant white. Though Jennifer is Mia’s step-mother, she loves her like her own daughter. At high school, the in-house bully Catherine, and her hangers-on, pick on Mia, and even throw her into the school’s swimming pool. Sasha isn’t too fond of Mia either. They live in Mexico, and Grant is an archaeologist of sorts. Since he is expecting an international delegation to come and look at his latest discovery, he is going to be busy for the next couple of days. So, he arranges for Mia and Sasha to go on a glass-bottomed boat tour, one in which they will be able to sea sharks just a few feet away, through the glass.

At the last minute, their friends Alexa and Nicole ask them to drop out of the boating expedition and join them in visiting a secret place that Grant’s assistant Ben has shown Alexa. It turns out to be a deep water-bed, with a kind of inflated ‘camp’ floating on it, full of scuba diving equipment and other supplies. After swimming around for a while, Alexa suggests to the others to go scuba diving with her, as she has been there before, and seen an extra-ordinary cave, deep down, where the Mayan’s buried their dead. Initially, the three are reluctant, but the excitement of seeing their own Atlantis gets the better of them. It’s tough staying together under water, and they often drift away. Moreover, curiosity gets the better of them, and they venture far beyond safe limits. The corpses are there alright, but so are Grant, Ben and their other colleague, Carl, preparing for the arrival of the dignitaries the next day. Suddenly, there arrive several blind, white sharks, who are bent on doing what sharks do best: get their teeth into human flesh.

47 Meters Down: Uncaged has an odd title, which emanates from 47 meters, the first movie. It was initially titled 48 Meters Down, which was altered to 47 Meters Down: The Next Chapter, until the producers settled for 47 Meters Down: Uncaged. Though the titles are similar, the second film is not a sequel or continuation of the film. Common factors are teenage girls preyed upon by sharks, the producers of the earlier film are here too and so is the director, Johannes Roberts (The Other Side of the Door, The Strangers: Prey at Night, 47 Meters Down), who has co-written the film with script with Ernest Riera (The Plague, Albert, 47 Meters Down). Most of the writing is a damp squib (pun intended), except for de rigueur scares that just have to be there, through predictably clever editing (Martin Brinkler).

There is not too much you can do with a shark movie, besides introducing more sharks and more jump scares, and 47 Meters down Uncaged doesn’t endeavour to do much. Except for discovering the three gentlemen they would have liked to best avoid, in the deep, and the climax, that is refreshingly shot on the surface, not in the murky waters, there is no novelty on display. One clever twist is the use of a single shark tooth that Grant gifts to Mia. Both as writer and director, Roberts (British) is uncomfortable with the scenes that lead-up to the main setting, and writes pathetic dialogue too. In an 86-minute film, that is precious footage wasted. Since all the girls have scuba equipment fitted, which includes oxygen supplies, you can barely make out who is who. The manner in which they keep screeching and asking each other about how much oxygen is left in each one of their respective cylinders is ludicrous. All one sees most of the time are pairs of naked legs, paddling.

Every entry of the sharks is accompanied by a bang, adding up to more than your bucks had bargained for. It does seem odd that being aware of the sharks in the area (the girls live there; the boat shark cruise), they still venture so deep into the water, which ultimately leads to the sea. One of the seven below sea-level humans dies not in the jaws of a shark, but an unnatural death due to….spoiler alert! No prizes at all for guessing how many and who, if any, emerge alive. But there are prizes for counting how many sharks are there and how many of them attack how many times. C’mon, just kidding! Who cares?

Sophie Nélisse (Canadian; Monsieur Lazhar, The Book Thief, Worst Case: We Get Married) as Mia, Corinne Foxx (Marie Bishop in real-life; daughter of Jamie Foxx; model; debut) as Sasha, Brianne Tju (TV; Pass the Light) as Alexa, Sistine Sylvester Stallone (debut) as Nicole, Davi Santos (Brazil-born; Something Like Summer, Cure, The Man from Earth: Holocenas) as Ben, Khylin Rhambo (TV; Enders Game) as Carl, Brec Bassinger as Catherine, John Corbett as Grant and Nia Long as Jennifer comprise the undistinguished cast.

An interesting discovery was that the opening scene of the Indian film Noblemen (released on June 28) in the pool, is lifted from this film, though it might well be the other way round. In Noblemen, it is the lead actor who is thrown into the pool. A case of pooling your resources?

Once you have taken the plunge, it does not matter how many meters is the depth you are plumbing, 47, 48 or 84, so the title does not evoke any interest, except remind us that the film is made by the same team that made the predecessor. That one raked in good moolah. This one will make money too, but not enough to shout about. Give a shout for some impressive underwater photography (Mark Silk) and visual effects, though very little is clearly visible to the naked (or bespectacled or contact lensed) eye, given the reflection and refraction, and only the occasional beams of torchlights piercing the turbid aqua. 47 Meters Down: Uncaged is a shallow attempt at hollow horror.

P.S.: Notice how I have avoided any mention of the proper noun Jaws, though the common noun did creep in. Do not compare this film with Jaws. If you know your cinema, you won’t, I am sure.

Rating: * ½

Trailer: https://youtu.be/AvXjx8SZbv8

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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of FilmFestivals.com and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.


Bandra West, Mumbai

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