There have been several dozen shark attack movies released in the past decade, but the number of legitimately entertaining — and occasionally great — ones can be counted on one hand. The Shallows (2016), Bait (2012), Shark Night (2011), The Reef (2010)… and that’s it. 47 Meters Down (2017) doesn’t belong in their league, but in addition to being an occasionally suspenseful and ultimately grim aquatic thriller it’s also the only one of the bunch to have earned a sequel. 47 Meters Down: Uncaged sends new sisters into new waters with hungry, sadistic sharks, and while it doesn’t reach the same depths of tension as its predecessor it finds mild, slasher-like fun en route to a wonderfully ridiculous finale.
Mia (Sophie Nélisse) and her new step-sister Sasha (Corinne Fox) have moved to Yucatan, Mexico with their parents (John Corbett, Nia Long) so their dad can excavate an underground and underwater Mayan city. The girls head off for an afternoon of mandated bonding , but they divert from their scheduled plans when Sasha’s friends Alexa (Brianne Tju) and Nicole (Sistine Rose Stallone) pick them up for a day trip beyond the usual tourist spots. They find a swimming hole that connects to the underwater city, and using some conveniently available SCUBA gear they head down for a peek. Unfortunately for them, they’re not the only vertebrates looking around down there. Actually, they are — the killer sharks are blind.
Director/co-writer Johannes Roberts (The Strangers: Prey at Night, 2018) returns for the follow-up to his fishy hit, but while he once again focuses his story on a pair of feuding sisters facing off against homicidal sharks their situation finds difference in the details. Rather than being stuck in a shark cage on the ocean floor, Mia and Sasha are trapped with their friends in more claustrophobic surroundings as the four of them are swimming through tight caverns with small air pockets made putrid over time. Roberts doesn’t quite take full advantage of the setting and never even approaches The Descent-like levels of claustrophobic terror, but the environment is unique enough to stand apart from the crowd.
Both the underwater temple and the above water exteriors help make for an attractive film, and at under ninety minutes it’s rarely a dull watch. The exception there is a set-piece involving an underwater whirlpool that obscures the visual details for several minutes with bland CG debris. It’s a small part of the whole, though, with the rest of the underwater action holding viewer attention with sneaky sharks, screaming fish, and some striking sequences captured in “Donato Reds” (the crimson filter frequently slathered over horror/suspense scenes in films from Suspiria (1977) to Crawl (2019), named for the Italian cinematographer who first “invented” it by reportedly dipping light bulbs in seagull blood before a shoot). The sharks themselves are mostly (completely?) CG, but they’re effective enough as they creep from the shadows to take unsuspecting victims in their teeth.
The girls’ performances are energetic and charismatic, and while the emotional stakes are fairly low they’re likable enough characters to keep viewers invested in the fun. There’s an attempt at character development with Mia and Sasha’s struggle to connect — Mia’s bullied at school and Sasha’s too cool to care — and it’s just enough to matter despite not being enough to truly care. Veterans Corbett and Long are only around briefly, and that pretty much sums up the bulk of the cast as the focus is on the four friends.
It’s every bit another frequently generic shark attack movie complete with some sketchy effects and questionable writing — you know the minute Nicole is introduced that she’s going to be the troublemaker who’ll lead the rest to their doom, and good gravy she does not disappoint. Peer pressure is a bitch, but it’s got nothing on Nicole. She’s an entertaining fool and serves as a nice contrast to Alexa who’s far smarter and more capable than supporting characters typically get to be. The recent and noticeably superior Crawl is a leaner, meaner, and more satisfying thriller, but they share several narrative beats as main characters are trapped by nature, others arrive only to be eaten, and then the film finally opens up for the finale. Again, this is the lesser film, but it will scratch a similar itch for genre fans looking for fun thrills.
And 47 Meters Down: Uncaged is fun with some silly kills, that screaming fish — I’m not kidding about that screaming fish — and some real nuttiness in the film’s final minutes. It still won’t join the four at the top of the page in being a terrifically entertaining and great shark attack flick, but as an afternoon diversion or a late-night rental it’s more than just another fish in the sea.