47 Meters Down: Uncaged is the textbook definition of disposable summer entertainment, combining weak characters with intermittent thrills.
After underwater survival thriller 47 Meters Down became a surprise sleeper box office hit in the summer of 2017, a sequel was quickly put into motion. This weekend, that followup - 47 Meters Down: Uncaged - premieres in theaters, hoping to replicate the success of its predecessor. Though this film features an all-new cast when compared to the original movie, the returning creative team of director Johannes Roberts and co-writer Ernest Rivera ensures the sequel carries over some of the first movie's DNA. And, the results are probably what one expected when a second 47 Meters Down was announced. 47 Meters Down: Uncaged is the textbook definition of disposable summer entertainment, combining weak characters with intermittent thrills.
In 47 Meters Down: Uncaged, stepsisters Mia (Sophie Nélisse) and Sasha (Corrine Foxx) skip the touristy shark-seeing trip their father Grant (John Corbett) booked for them and instead decide to spend the day with fellow teenage girls Nicole (Sistine Rose Stallone) and Alexa (Brianne Tju). The four head off to a remote area and go diving through the remains of an ancient civilization. Unfortunately, the experience quickly turns into a horrifying battle of survival when the girls discover they're swimming amongst a great white shark, and have to work together to find a way back to the surface.
Much like the original 47 Meters Down, Roberts' directorial approach is the sequel's strongest asset. Though it takes a bit of time before the shark makes its first appearance, the sequences where the great white is hunting the main ensemble do work in terms of delivering superficial thrills. Once again, Roberts portrays the sheer terror of the depths of the ocean, employing claustrophobic environments, tight shots, and murky cinematography to solid effect. The design of the villainous shark is also a terrifying creation and will likely only exacerbate people's fear of sharks by the time the movie is over. Since a bulk of the action takes place in low-visibility areas, the danger of the shark lurks at every corner.
Unfortunately, another similarity 47 Meters Down: Uncaged shares with its predecessor is a lack of interest in setting up its characters. The main four girls aren't so much well-rounded individuals as they are vessels for the audience to experience the film vicariously through. That works somewhat on a surface level, but it hampers the viewer's ability to become fully invested in the story. There are attempts early on to establish some kind of internal conflict between Mia and Sasha, but this plot point is extremely half-baked and never pays off as the filmmakers intended. Though 47 Meters Down: Uncaged runs at a svelte 89 minutes, it can feel longer because there's minimal emotional engagement in the film's events. The main cast all tries their best with the material they're given, but it's clear Roberts and Rivera sketched out caricatures and focused more on the shark elements.
Many of the supporting actors, due to small amounts of screen time, fare worse than the main stars. The most substantial secondary role is that of Corbett's Grant, especially since the film tries to establish his relationship and bond with his two daughters. But, these moments are fleeting and don't really register, negatively impacting certain beats Roberts hopes land a poignant punch. Other members of the cast, such as Davi Santos and Khylin Rhambo, exist for the sole purpose of being red-shirted to emphasize the threat of the shark. Obviously, the shark is the star of the show, but 47 Meters Down: Uncaged definitely would have benefitted from a cast of more developed and likable characters. The thrills of watching people escape from a killer shark only go so far, and there isn't much else to latch onto.
Coming out in mid-August long after the summer 2019 tentpoles have already left their mark on the box office, few believed 47 Meters Down: Uncaged had the potential to be the next Jaws, but it's still a thin and generic entry into its genre. Fans of the original will likely enjoy what Roberts has served up for the second course, but 47 Meters Down: Uncaged isn't going to win over any converts or make people seek out the first film to see what they missed. Most audiences would be better served saving their money for the big fall offerings on the horizon, rather than settling for a bland shark attack movie. On one hand, it's nice 47 Meters Down: Uncaged doesn't have any delusions of grandeur about what it is, but a little more effort might have made it more worthwhile.
47 Meters Down: Uncaged is now playing in U.S. theaters. It runs 89 minutes and is rated PG-13 for sequences of intense peril, bloody images, and brief strong language.
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- 47 Meters Down: Uncaged (2019) release date: Aug 16, 2019