47 Meters Down: Uncaged
2019, PG-13, 89 min. Directed by Johannes Roberts. Starring Sophie Nélisse, Corinne Foxx, Sistine Rose Stallone, Brianne Tju, John Corbett, Nia Long.
REVIEWED By Richard Whittaker, Fri., Aug. 23, 2019
A moment, please, to appreciate that 47 Meters Down: Uncaged contains a landmark in shark attack cinema (which is a genre, don't question me). Finally, a film has dethroned Deep Blue Sea for the title of "dumbest and most hilarious chomp-chomp moment."
It's hard to tell whether it's deliberate comedy in this follow-up to 2016's salty smash, 47 Meters Down. This is a sluggish splash so desperate for real shocks that, at one point, a fish screams at someone for a jump scare. The only connection to the first film is the idea of being trapped with sharks, but instead of the first's rough riff on the far superior Open Water, now four American teens living in Yucatán are chased by blind cave sharks who inhabit a submerged Mayan city that can only be reached through sheer-sided cenotes.
The original, with Mandy Moore trapped in an untethered shark cage at the bottom of the sea, is a solid creature flick; and franchise creator/director Johannes Roberts proved that he can handle lean tension with last year's The Strangers: Prey at Night. There is theoretically no reason why his sequel to his own success shouldn't work, but it doesn't. Normally it's OK to give future shark chum characters the thinnest coating of actual personality before they get eaten, but when all the audience is ciphers, and then the four leads are shot in cramped, murky waters, with all their lines delivered through scuba mask microphones, it's impossible to tell who is getting eaten, which makes it impossible to care.
The cast tries, and this cannot have been an easy film to make. As the unpopular good girl Mia, Nélisse does her best to give the audience someone to latch onto, but for most of the movie she's indistinguishable from her stepsister, Sasha (Foxx), or Sasha's best friends (Stallone and Tju). There's a point at which one character warns the others not to kick up silt because it will make everything hard to see, and it's unfortunate that the effects and editing team never got the memo; because from the digital debris to the edit to the basics of storytelling, this is an unengaging mess. It really doesn't help that Corbett (playing Mia's dad, Grant) just sweats disinterest. When the script by Roberts and his 47 Meters Down/The Other Side of the Door collaborator Ernest Riera throws in an absurd third-act twist, it feels both cheap and like ludicrous padding for a film that still barely scrapes the underneath of 90 minutes. In a summer when Alexandre Aja made the creature feature feel fresh again with Crawl, the ocean's most graceful apex predator undoubtedly loses out to a bunch of dumb Florida gators.