47 Meters Down: Uncaged adds some Mexican spice to turn a ‘negative encounter’ into a surprisingly positive experience

It’s fairly common in the world of bad shark movies for franchises to be fashioned out of films that share little to nothing in common other than the presence of sharks. In fact, it’s actually quite rare for there to be a consistent through-line from one film to the next. 47 METERS DOWN: UNCAGED very firmly belongs in the former category, sharing neither cast, characters or even premise with its forebear.

What it does share, though, is director Johannes Roberts who brings a recognisable visual approach that I guess we’ll have to call the 47 METERS DOWN ‘house style’ from now on.

When a group of school friends in in Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula decide to go scuba diving in a recently discovered sunken Mayan city one of their fathers is excavating, they think they’re in for an interesting afternoon’s cave diving. But when an underwater accident blocks the way they came, they’re forced to swim further into the city where something dangerous has long lurked, undisturbed.

Although the execution is something of a mixed bag, 47 METERS DOWN: UNCAGED deserves credit for at least trying to bring some new ideas to the long-in-the-tooth milieu of bad shark movies. Sure, it might start by getting tangled in some sub-HOLLYOAKS teen movie cliché drama as we’re introduced to our main protagonists, Mia (Sophie Nélisse) and stepsister Sasha (Corinne Foxx) whose relationship you can probably guess without seeing a single frame of the movie. Although the film isn’t really interested in exploring their family dynamic beyond setting out some basic interpersonal stakes, the girls’ divergent personalities and fractious relationship does provide a reasonably solid emotional core around which Roberts is able to build the required atmosphere of suspense and dread.

The setting of a sunken Mayan city makes for some wonderful backdrops to the action – and ample opportunities to use torch-lit negative space to build tension and while the script isn’t anything to write home about dialogue-wise, there are a handful of decent jump scares and a hitherto undiscovered species of blind shark brings some new wrinkles to an old set of perils. Unfortunately, the shark itself is one of the movie’s chief disappointments, belying the rest of the decent production values with a cheapness that seems conspicuously out of place.

It all gets a bit bonkers towards the end when the remaining characters develop plot armour that would make Vin Diesel’s Dominic Torreto blush and we switch out the blind shark in favour of a couple of common or garden Great Whites but it does at least give an opportunity for one last flourish of 47 METERS DOWN: UNCAGED’s house style as the murky depths are illuminated by underwater flares to great effect.

It’s no minor classic but thanks to a relatively fresh take on a very stale fish tale, 47 METERS DOWN: UNCAGED rates a cut above the usual Shark Weak fare.

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