-A new summer shark thriller and a terrific vehicle for Bryan Cranston.
We get a movie like this once a year in the summertime, the silly shark horror that is probably better viewed on the SyFy channel, but gets a wider release and slightly larger budget. When you hear the stories about how 47 Meters Down was actually supposed to be a TV movie initially, grown into a wide release when The Shallows had success, it makes sense that the studio did their homework and took a chance on this phobia-inducing project. All in all, while I wouldn’t classify this as a huge success, its overproducing at the box office is fairly indicative of its quality: it is a better than average horror movie.
The plot is simple. Two sisters (Mandy Moore and Claire Holt) head to Mexico on a vacation that was supposed to be for Moore and her boyfriend before their breakup. Now flying solo, she invites her sister, and they meet a couple of guys (Chris Johnson and Yani Gellman) who bring them to a shark dive on a beat up, rickety boat run by Matthew Modine. When the cable that lowers their cage into the water snaps, the sisters are trapped 47 meters below surface, unable to rise too quickly to avoid too much nitrogen in the bloodstream, but surrounded by great white sharks that have been swarming around due to the boat owner chumming the water.
Sure, some of the CG isn’t great because of a TV movie budget, and the plot set-up isn’t anything special, but the movie does enough once we get put into the main scenario and works as a nice horror/thriller. There’s some nice camerawork that has our characters journeying out into black, dark water with limited visibility and clear disorientation, surrounded by sharks. Those black screen moments are actually terrifying, and a few of the scenes really work the shark phobia to its fullest. This movie is a bit scarier than The Shallows, it just isn’t as well made.
If your goal in going to this film is to be a little scared, and check the few phobia boxes that get realized with the cage, the darkness, the sharks, then you will not be disappointed. The movie is performing well in a packed summer for a reason. The first half-hour is terrible, it’s not acted particularly well, and will not win any awards for production value, but it succeeds in what it is attempting to do, and for that, I’ll pass it.
47 Meters Down (2017)
Director: Johannes Roberts (Storage 24, The Other Side of the Door, Forest of the Damned)
Starring: Mandy Moore, Claire Holt, Chris Johnson, Yani Gellman, and Matthew Modine
RT Score: 54%
Bryan Cranston’s film career has really started to expand, and he has turned in awards-worthy performances in a few different films. Wakefield is the newest addition to that list, an extremely personal story that manages to have us follow an immensely unlikable character, reigning us in with Cranston’s magnetic performance.
Bryan Cranston is Howard Wakefield, a city attorney who works insane hours and provides for his family. One night, his train breaks down, and rather than have an argument with his wife (Jennifer Garner), with whom his marriage is disintegrating, he instead takes up shop in the attic above their separate garage about 100 feet from their house. Once he’s able to watch over his family but not deal with the stress it brings, he decides to stay, becoming a drifter who scavenges for essentials and lives in the musty attic, unable to find a way to re-enter his old life without a valid explanation.
The film does not have a great rooting interest, as we are more observers to the plot than we are active participants. Although we see the stress Wakefield is under, and understand some of his reasoning in a twisted way, we can never root for him to desert his family. Also, when we uncover more about him through flashbacks, it just further illustrates that he’s a bad person. So, without a rooting interest, the fact that the movie keeps us invested is impressive. This could be partially because of Cranston carrying the film, mostly with narration and expressive behavior, but also because of the awkward way of thinking how he can remove himself from this scenario now. Once you just disappear without a true reason, how can you ever rejoin your family?
It has a nice production, setting up our plot through windows, binoculars, as we join Cranston in being the ultimate observer. The score is nice, and the film has a hazy look to it that only continues to increase and Cranston’s mental health deteriorates. The film has a unique style and structure, and although not much happens in terms of describable plot, there’s something addicting about watching this movie because of how eccentric and taboo it is. It’s a honest film, with a very dishonest protagonist.
This is arguably the best performance of the year so far, and although it’s not a movie I’d like to consistently re-watch, it does overcome the shortcoming of not having likable characters with a good script, style, and presentation.
Director: Robin Swicord (X, several writing credits)
Starring: Bryan Cranston, and Jennifer Garner
RT Score: 73%