"That's, Like, the Biggest Shark I've Ever Seen."

47 Meters Down
(USA, 89 min.)
Dir. Johannes Roberts; Writ. Johannes Roberts, Ernest Riera
Starring: Mandy Moore, Claire Holt
Mandy Moore Claire Holt
Claire Holt and Mandy Moore star in 47 Meters Down.
VVS Films
The cautious tourists always have the craziest vacations. Linda (Goldie Hawn) plays it safe and doesn’t talk to strangers during her Ecuadorian nightmare, but she gets kidnapped and terrorized by the cartel. Susan (Cate Blanchett) drinks Diet Coke without ice to avoid germs in Morocco, yet a renegade bullet nips her whilst she naps on a tour bus. Darlene (Kate Beckinsale) hesitantly agrees with her friend Alice (Claire Danes) to swap Hawaii for Thailand and (whoops) finds herself spending more time in jail than on the beach. Rose (Kate Winslet) follows her mother’s orders until she rebels and finds love on a cruise ship until (whomp whomp) the boat sinks. Lonely Planet doesn’t prepare tourists for plot twists.

Somewhere between Snatched, Babel, Brokedown Palace, and Titanic is the unfortunate vacation of boring and ever-so-cautious Lisa (Mandy Moore) in 47 Meters Below. Lisa takes a trip to Mexico with her adventurous sister Kate (Claire Holt) and the girls’ ideas of a wild getaway are about as different as mom jeans and itsy bitsy bikinis. When Lisa cautions Kate against joining some sexy Mexicans to swim with sharks in a sketchy cage dangled from an even sketchier boat, Kate convinces her sis to live on wild. Their dive seems great until (whomp whomp) the sketchy shark tank apparatus breaks and sends the girls to an all-inclusive stay at Davy Jones’ Locker. Trapped 47 meters beneath the surface in shark-infested waters, the girls are in full Blake Lively mode in depths from which only Jacques Cousteau could save them.

Moore, hot right now with This is Us, is a lot of fun in this scared-as-shit and totally random performance. (IMDb trivia doesn’t indicate if she took the gig to pay her mortgage.) Her shrill hysteria voices the fears that many viewers probably have when it comes to swimming with sharks. 47 Meters Down often defies logic, but Moore’s Lisa is such an uptight and frazzled survivor/ninny that one can’t help but root for her when she screams winners like “The shark ripped him to pieces!” in reference to their friend who becomes an amuse bouche.

The presence of Matthew Modine, whose appearance as the crusty captain earned a collective chuckle at the Toronto press screening, adds some novelty to the mix and a dash of camp, while Holt’s serviceably levelheaded turn as the even-keeled Kate balances the feeding frenzy of Moore’s fish-out-of-water performance. Among the cast, the sharks chew the least scenery.

“That’s, like, the biggest shark I’ve ever seen!” screams Lisa and/or Kate as they watch the CGI sharks circle the cage with tooth-gnashing hunger. The sharks in this deep-sea horror flick are nasty predators and they’re big, fat, menacing, and, like, wonderfully fake.  The baddies of 47 Meters Down swim in good company with bloodthirsty killers like Bruce and the shark that exploded after being smacked by Adam West. (If only the girls had some Shark Repellent Bat Spray.)

Director Johannes Roberts thankfully finds just the right balance of suspense and ridiculousness as 47 Meters Down has a hoot with a story that we’ve seen before. Stupid decisions abound and they largely figure into Lisa’s risk-averse attitude, which plays into the shark/shark bait tango as the girls realize that they must escape the cage to survive. Each trip outside the “safety” of the cage brings them deeper into the danger zone, but staying put makes death inevitable when one only has so much oxygen. The brisk running time of the film keeps the atmosphere tense as the oxygen supplies in Kate and Lisa’s scuba tanks serve as a ticking bomb that nudges Lisa to oscillate between panic and survival mode. At the same time, the far climb to the surface through shark-infested waters adds another element of danger since a swift ascent brings the threat of the bends and fatal nitrogen bubbles in the brain. Swim too quickly and they die, swim too slowly and the sharks gobble them up. Add some Wikipedia-checked one-liners on scuba diving and 47 Meters Down has more than enough currents to keep the audience guessing.

The dark setting of the sea floor and its murky waters (reportedly made cloudy with chopped up broccoli) up the tension and provide lots of legitimate scares as Roberts plays with space and lighting. The opaque water leaves one anticipating a head-on collision between the girls and the sharks as the venture into open water. Between the pop-out scares and harmless silliness of the girls’ adventure, 47 Meters Down offers a wave of thrills without ever taking itself too seriously, like a three-star inclusive resort contentedly filled with rowdy spring breakers and Mandy Moore as the horrified mom on family vacation. What more do you want in a movie that has, like, the biggest sharks you’ve ever seen?

47 Meters Down opens in theatres June 23.