If there’s one good thing to be taken from the fiasco of the Sharknado series, it’s that the ocean’s most fearsome predator is back at the top of the cinematic food chain. A shark menaced Blake Lively in The Shallows, Jason Statham fought a prehistoric fish in The Meg and, perhaps most successfully, sharks circled stranded divers in 47 Meters Down. The latter has now been revisited in sequel 47 Meters Down: Uncaged, with Johannes Roberts returning to the director’s chair.
Step-siblings Mia (Sophie Nélisse) and Sasha (Corinne Foxx) have been sent off for the day on a glass-bottomed boat shark-watching expedition. Mia’s father Grant (John Corbett) is a researcher, exploring a Mayan city concealed by rising sea levels. Sasha’s friends Alexa (Brianne Tju) and Nicole (Sistine Rose Stallone) have found out where the entrance to the city is and propose an illicit dive to take a look for themselves. Once they get down there, they discover that the city is home to a massive great white shark – albeit one which is blind due to a lifetime living in darkness.
Where 47 Meters Down thrived on its simplicity, this sequel widens the canvas somewhat, trading the single location of the first movie’s shark cage for the labyrinthine tunnels of a hidden city. Roberts evidently relishes the chance to explore the potential of his premise and has great fun concealing the marine threat behind clouds of underwater silt, bits of Mayan architecture and around corners.
The film also benefits from a committed cast giving it everything they have. Much like the spelunking horror The Descent – one of the scariest movies of the 21st century – Uncaged thrives on the inherent pressure cooker environment of a group of women battling against a situation that is dangerous and hostile even before the deadly critters start circling.
Sophie Nélisse, who was excellent in The Book Thief a few years ago, brings a defiant anchor to proceedings as the insecure protagonist. Roberts opens the story with her being tossed into a swimming pool by some unpleasant classmates – the scene framed from the water as if humanity is intruding upon the subterranean world. That’s a theme which re-emerges later on as the sharks, perfectly adapted to their unique life in the hidden city, are pitted against the invading humans with their oxygen tanks and scuba gear.
But any talk of thematics is largely unnecessary. This is a fun movie in which fairly ropey CGI sharks tear chunks out of characters who repeatedly make terrible decisions in service of the narrative. Just as he did with the previous movie, Roberts throws in a handful of killer narrative twists to keep his audience guessing and provides more than enough shark action to paper over the slightly tired, episodic feel of the storytelling in its middle section.
By broadening the canvas of the story for 47 Meters Down: Uncaged, Roberts provides himself with plenty of opportunities for scares and silliness but also sacrifices some of the tight focus that made the first film such a pleasant surprise. In that movie, the diminishing air supply was more of a villain than the sharks but, make no mistake, it’s the toothy predators who get leading antagonist status this time around.
Uncaged is, with a few notable exceptions, exactly the movie you expect it to be. But when you expected it to be a gory, no-holds-barred slice of shark-based carnage action, it’s tough to be too disappointed.
Dir: Johannes Roberts
Scr: Ernest Riera, Johannes Roberts
Cast: Sophie Nélisse, Corinne Foxx, Brianne Tju, Sistine Rose Stallone, John Corbett
Prd: James Harris, Robert Jones, Mark Lane
DOP: Mark Silk
Run time: 85 mins
47 Meters Down: Uncaged is on DVD and digital download in the UK from 3rd February.