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47 METERS DOWN: UNCAGED (2019)

Directed by Johannes Roberts
Written by Ernest Riera, Johannes Roberts
Starring Sophie Nélisse, Corinne Foxx, Brianne Tju, Sistine Rose Stallone, Brec Bassinger, Nia Long, Khylin Rhambo, Davi Santos, Axel Mansilla
Find out more about this film here

Johannes Roberts, the director of 47 METERS DOWN (and STRANGERS: PREY BY NIGHT and THE OTHER SIDE OF THE DOOR), returns to deep waters and chompy fishes in 47 MTERS DOWN: UNCAGED. And this time, he’s brought the daughters of famous people along with him. I was shocked and surprised by the first film in this series as it proved to be thrilling from beginning to end and sported some of the most toe-curling shark attack scenes I’ve seen in ages. The sequel is not as good as the first 47 METERS DOWN—let’s get that right out of the way. But dammit if I didn’t have a fun time with this one too.

A quartet of girls (Sophie Nélisse, Corinne (daughter of Jamie) Foxx, Brianne Tju, Sistine Rose (daughter of Sly) Stallone) decide to skip a feed the sharks boat cruise in favor of a hike and a dip in a secluded lake that happens to be resting above a submerged Mayan City. Two of the girls, Sasha (Foxx) and Mia (Nélisse) are stepsisters having difficulties getting along with their parents newly married. Finding diving equipment left by the father of these two girls (John Corbett) left for an exploration team, the four gals decide to suit up, check out the city below, and venture into its unmapped caves. Once submerged, an accident traps the girls in the cave system which are infested with numerous blind, albino, great white sharks that have been trapped in the caves for hundreds of years. Now the gals must endure the sharks and find a new way out of the cave system before their air runs out.

The leaps and bounds this film take to get four teenagers in scuba gear and lost in a cave full of sharks is beyond ridiculous. Coincidences and contrivances abound. One of the girls happens to be sleeping with one of the boys on Corbett’s team of divers. The suits just happen to be left out in the open for anyone to use. The wetsuits, left for an archeological team of adults, just happen to fit four tiny teenage girls. I think I would have preferred had the film just started with the kids in the cave and simply given no explanation as to why they were there to the arduous and over-expository fifteen minutes it takes to get underwater. We get some getting-to-know-you scenes and a quarrel between sisters that is obviously set up to be the driving emotional force of the film. The setup in the original, where Mandy Moore’s character is trying to prove something to herself is a much stronger theme in comparison to the flimsy sibling rivalry in the sequel, leaving my investment considerably weakened.

That said, the shark scenes are knuckle-whiteningly terrifying. This film had me gasping for breath and holding my chest at one point—something that only occurs in shark movies, I have to admit. While the effect of the shark emerging suddenly from the darkness lessens after reuse, the ending makes up for it big time with a ton of surprises. Those who saw the end of the original film will see a familiar series of events repeated, but director Roberts plays on those expectations and amplifies them to an outrageous degree. The film does take some very clever turns by the end, giving the gals quite a few toothy obstacles to overcome to survive. Roberts and his CG crew really know how to work the scares.

The acting is hit or miss. It’s nice seeing some of the kids of famous actors getting a break in this film. Seeing the names listed at the beginning and then trying to match them to the actresses on screen simply by trying to match features to their famous actor parents’ faces are fun. Sistine Stallone is a stunner, but can’t deny that she has Poppa Sly’s eyes. Foxx is recognizably Jamie’s. But the lack of experience in front of the camera shows and hopefully this film will serve as a way for the leads to strive for bigger and better performances. Still, they provide for great eye candy for these sharks to chomp on and therefore serve their function in this lighthearted popcorn chiller.

While films like this will never top JAWS, I think 47 METERS DOWN and its sequel do the genre right. It provides the right amount of terrifying close calls, tricky situations, and teeth-gnashing feeding frenzies to keep the old shark-phobias sharpened. Though the acting is hit or miss, the script is rough and convoluted to get them into the water, and decisions are made that will make your palm dent your forehead, 47 METERS DOWN: UNCAGED is big, scary, breezy fun. It shouldn’t be missed by those of you, like me, who like to twinge that irrational fear of sharks from time to time.