47 METRES DOWN: UNCAGED BANALITY

September 7 , 2019. By Christian Tesfaye( Christian Tesfaye was Fortune’s Op-Ed Editor and currently works as a researcher. He can be reached at christian.tesfaye@addisfortune.net. )


47 Meters Down: Uncaged is yet another movie in a long line of Jaws imitations. And like every one of those that came before it, it is completely uninspired. Christian Tesfaye awards 4 out of 10 stars.


Almost half a century ago, Steven Spielberg made the first modern blockbuster, Jaws. As luck would have it, the first such box office breakthrough would also be a great horror thriller with carefully fleshed out characters, memorable lines, a brilliant score and some of the most suspenseful scenes that would continue to be imitated in the horror genre for decades.

That was a great movie. But every single imitation afterwards, or “homage” as the filmmakers would prefer to call it, has been a disaster. From every one of the Jaws sequels to recent efforts such as The Meg, while there is a great white shark present and a deluge of jump scares, purposeful dialogue, pacing, two-dimensional characters and an interesting plotline are absent.

I will not lie. The deaths of characters as they are brutally butchered by sharks becomes ever more unique every time it is put to the screen. It is just the sort of barbarism an audience desensitised of violence deserves. But a story to wrap the violence, which almost everyone looks for in horror movies such as these, would also make the whole experience a bit more tolerable.

47 Meters Down: Uncaged is the kind of mindlessness we have come to expect of horror films. The movie follows a racially diverse group of teenagers (two white girls, one black and one Asian, just the right kind of quota modern politics would approve of) who spontaneously decide to visit a submerged ancient Mayan human-made cave.

Mia (Sophie Nelisse) is the introvert of the group, so it is easy to deduce that she gets to survive. It is an unwritten law in horror movies that while the most withdrawn and bookish character gets to finally outsmart the monster, the loudest and most promiscuous of the group always gets killed first. I thought filmmakers would try and distans themselves from such troupes after The Cabin in the Woods successfully satirized them as tired and clichéd. I continue to be proven wrong.

The movie begins and ends more or less as we expect it to. There are no narrative subversions and no creative plot elements anywhere in the movie. Yet it is not completely bland from an atmospheric point of view.

Much of the film takes place underground in a lagoon, where the characters are running out of oxygen and it is dark all around. It is appropriately claustrophobic and the suspense is handled as well as it could be in a movie so predictable.

Nelisse’s performance was also impressive, especially given the terrible dialogue she had to work with. She delivers her lines with sincerity and holds her head up high in a movie that does not deserve good performances.

Her more connected costars unfortunately perform about as well as the film requires them to. The film might have as well been called “47 Meters Down: Nepotism”. One of the four girls is played by Corinne, daughter of Jamie Foxx. He has proven himself as an accomplished actor in movies such as Ray and Django Unchained. On the other hand, all that can be said of Corinne is that the apple has fallen pretty far from the tree.

Another part is played by Sistine, the daughter of Sylvester Stallone. Her performance is about as memorable as the lagoon in the movie. She is just there until she unsurprisingly dies and we find ourselves in the debt of the sharks for ridding us of a character that does not provide any weight to the film whatsoever.

47 Meters Down: Uncaged hopefully does not get a sequel. It is itself a sequel to an unexpectedly commercially successful 2017 movie of the same name. The “47 Meters Down” was a reference to the depth at which the characters in the previous movie were trapped as they tried to escape from sharks. It is about the laziest title ever given to a movie.

In an attempt to connect this film to the commercial success of the previous one, this movie also has the same title - albeit the inclusion of a subtitle - although “47 meters Down” has nothing to do with this film. Furthermore, “uncaged” is included in the title, which is again a reference to the plot element in the previous movie where the characters were trapped inside a diving cage. The “uncaged” in this film gives us almost no useful information about this movie.

If I seem too obsessed with the title, it is only to show that the film is so uninteresting and unnecessary that, forget the audience, the film’s title itself has forgotten to allude to it.



PUBLISHED ON Sep 07,2019 [ VOL 20 , NO 1010]



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