47 Metres Down – Review

Bit of confusion to clear up with this title’s title before we begin. Being English, it’s Metres, other territories have named it 47 Meters Down, and some of you purchased leaked DVDs with the title In the Deep. Maybe that name was dropped to avoid puns about the movie being shallow?

They needn’t have worried on that score. Okay, it’s played pretty simple on the emotional stakes – cheesy, even. But it’s a movie that wants to rely on the visual treats rather than build a character study with sharks in the background.

Jaws did that decades ago and it’ll never be surpassed.

Obligatory mention of Spielberg’s classic, because this is a killer shark movie, taken care of, let us take a look at Johannes Roberts’ attempt at a claustrophobic thriller.

It’s been billed as a horror but it really isn’t. Sure, there’s blood and some gore but the threat of not surviving is more psychological than monster lurking in the darkness chills.

The story centres (centers) around two sisters, Lisa and Kate. Lisa, played by Mandy Moore, is the dark-haired conservative type. They’re holidaying (vacation) in Mexico, Lisa is hiding a recent break up but finally confides in Kate.

Believing she was dumped for being boring, adventurous younger sis convinces her to kiss some Mexican boys and go cage diving with sharks. Like you do. Kate is played here by Claire Holt, proving to Maggie Grace that her younger self has been replaced.

Hopefully, Holt will go on to make more than a fleeting appearance in this generation’s Lost and Taken.

Obviously, the cage snaps with the two girls inside, otherwise the movie would be called 5 Metres Down (or 5 Meters Down, or In the First Bit of the Sea where You Can Still See the Boat’s Reflection).

Lisa’s fear of taking the dive is played up well and the director does will to avoid playing for lots of cheap jumps once they become stranded. This makes up for the dialogue that plays as poorly hidden commentary. However, towards the end, the sense of actual peril fades.

The girls are also told facts that we know must come into play or they wouldn’t get a mention. Hence, the penultimate scene could be seen by some as Jumping the Shark (see what I did there?).

Roberts can be forgiven for this. It still manages to work as a whole and with a movie clearly reliant on (subpar?) CGI, he appears to have made an effort to use tension rather than a series of further farfetched shark attacks.

Overall, a decent movie. The scale and budget means it was never aiming to be a massive blockbuster but it has already turned a tidy profit. It’s a top-level TV movie that deserves the chance to be seen in cinemas.

6/10

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Get Out – Review

Oh! The power of the trailer. Get Out, touted as a horror held the promise of a psychological thriller. A movie that was willing to throw social ignorance front and centre then scare the wits out of us. What it didn’t do was indicate the film is a badly envisaged comedy.

The clues were there, had we looked a little closer. We’ve got Allison Williams, Marnie from HBO’s Girls. Here she plays Rose, who is pretty much Marnie from HBO’s Girls. She’s taking home new black boyfriend to her white liberal, affluent parents. All the groundwork for that racial awkwardness already laid.

Just in case the incessant prodding that her boyfriend, Chris (Daniel Kaluuya), is black flies over your head, we even get a scene when they report a traffic accident with a deer where the police officer asks to see his ID. For no reason.

That sums up many scenes and incidents in the movie. There’s no reason for them. Take early on, it’s established Chris is a smoker and Rose’s mother is a therapist that uses hypnotism to cure addictions. It worked for Rose’s cringe over-the-top father. Then, during a late-night wander, he stumbles across Ma, and we’re wondering if he went under.

Pause there. Great premise. Is everything we’re about to see merely a messed up hypnotic trance or is he under some spell in the real world? Can we trust what follows? Also, the teddy bear (actually a lion) he moved before his walk is still facing the other way. Yes, he must have been hypnotised.

Wait. So why are you confirming the fact for certain with the next available dialogue between characters?

Because it’s not a psychological thriller. Or a horror. Or very good.

I’m aware this is going against the grain of what early reports are saying. But does this really highlight social discourse in a relevant way? The exaggerated scenes will shame some viewers who will shift uncomfortably as they see unpleasant traits on the big screen. But those moments do not justify a film that flops between genres, not to be savvy, but because – ironically – it lacks identity.

Even when it has the opportunity to finally gain traction after laying hints of some type of cult, it feels more like The Man with Two Brains than Rosemary’s Baby. Okay, it was never trying to be that dark or sinister with the horror but the social commentary is diluted when the chosen vehicle is so poorly conceived.

Take how Chris’s best friend – the true comedy in the movie – Lil Rel Howery’s Rod starts to piece together the situation. We have black people in this strange suburban community that appear brainwashed. Then when Chris sends a pic of one such character, who felt familiar, dressed like a Caucasian, and freaked out when flashed with the camera, some more plot points are pieced together.

Turns out he’s a missing man from Brooklyn. Suddenly we have the possibility Rose’s family are complicit with kidnap and brainwashing. But it’s never properly followed through. The situation is so ludicrously obvious that the hints become annoying. And the race divide is forgotten – and worse still – exposed as a poorly conceived plot point. There was no reason, whatsoever, for choosing black people. None. Other than to get attention for misusing the topic.

Really, in good faith, I can’t jump on the bandwagon. Don’t be fooled by the trailer, don’t believe the sycophantic reviews, don’t waste your hard-earned cash. Wait for it to come on Netflix or Amazon. Or better still – save yourself the 100 minutes running time and do something else instead.

4/10

Split – Review

Going into a M. Night Shyamalan film nowadays comes with certain guarantees. You’ll have been wooed by the trailer, believing he’s back on The Sixth Sense sort of form. After an hour, you’ll feel the eerie creep of disappointment settling in. By the end, the “twist” will lead to abject dismay and a vow never to trust him again. But then he serves up James McAvoy playing a man with twenty-three distinct personalities.

So, we all jump aboard the Shyamalan train once again. This time we know from the adverts that McAvoy’s character kidnaps three teenage girls. They come in the guise of Skins’ Jessica Sula and her best buddy, Haley Lu Richardson’s Claire. When they’re nabbed, they are leaving Claire’s birthday party and have sympathy invite – and our lead protagonist – Anya Taylor-Joy’s Casey with them.

So far, so good. The build begins for a psychological thriller. We first meet Dennis, an OCD strict jailer. This personality is kept in check by Patricia, his female personality that helps run the gig. The plan is to feed the girls to The Beast, a yet-to-be-met personality that is above all humankind.

Do you feel that thriller swinging toward a horror?

In between captive scenes, we see Dennis parade as Barry to his therapist and seeks counsel. She totally buys the idea that within a person, multiple, completely separate identities can exist. She even gives examples how physiological changes occur depending on the personality assumed.

The host in this case is Kevin but he’s been overrun by Dennis and Patricia. The collective is known as The Horde. It’s explained they all sit around a circle waiting for their time in the light. Kevin’s nine-year-old personality, Hedwig, has the ability to control people’s slot in the light. He’s agreed to assist Dennis and Patricia because they prevent The Horde poking fun at him.

For a time, it becomes teen slasher. The girls try revolts and get put into solitary confinement. But throughout all the main actors do their roles justice. McAvoy is impressive carrying the load of diverse personas but it’s no Heath Ledger as The Joker. More, engaging performance amidst a struggling script.

When we finally get to meet The Beast, the movie becomes ludicrous. It’s okay to suspend disbelief if the requirement is made clear early on. But to start with a grounded tone, have scenes stressing the seriousness of dissociative identity disorder, to then descend into something that would look ridiculous in a modern-day comic book is almost unforgivable.

4/10 . . . if the film finished a few minutes earlier than it did.

Remember how M. Night Shyamalan likes to throw in a twist? Well, he does it again here. I’ll not ruin it for you but that “almost” before unforgivable is for occasions such as this. For the sake of a quick shock in the cinema, he would have been better just laying his cards out in advance. Doing so would have enhanced the viewing of the movie rather than numerous headshakes at the screen and the laughter it unintentionally provided in various scenes.

5/10 (Probably should be more after the final scene sinks in but M. Night Shyamalan has missed a trick.)

Maggie – Review

It’s great to see Arnold Schwarzenegger back in movies. It’s even better to see he’s willing to step out of his comfort zone and assume different roles. On the face of it Maggie, a zombie horror, shouldn’t be too much of a change. But this isn’t a rehashed action flick for the goth generation. At its heart it’s a drama. But does it work?

In the movie’s early sequence we see Arnie bash a zombie to death, at this point you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s a disguised action flick. That soon peters out and director Henry Hobson enters indie flick territory.

It gives the story a chance for scene setting. Zombies are actually infected with the necroambulist virus. It gives those unfortunate enough to have it a period of grace. There’s no bite from the undead and quick trip to zombieville. In fact, the zombies are kind of portrayed as crazy, mindless cannibals. That are, well, just like zombies.

Arnie knows his daughter, the title of the movie, played by Abigail Breslin, is on borrowed time. So he intends to saviour every last moment. Unfortunately for the viewer, the director also wants to saviour every last moment. And so he drags out her final days as if we are living them with her. Those days feel like years.

Arnie has the option of handing her over when the time is drawing close, placing someone in quarantine removes the danger they possess. Or he can finish the job himself. Obviously neither of these appeal to the devoted father.

What follows is his desire to hang on to someone that is inevitably going to die. These moments are touching, and really well acted by the former Mr Universe. Expressing the sort of range he’ll need now his action days are (should) be nearing their end.

Breslin for her part is faultless. She knows she’s doomed and his horrified when stepmother Joey Richardson isn’t cooking downstairs but she smells food. It’s the stepmother that smells like fresh meat.

There’s a scene with a former crush of sorts that helps fill in some of the backstory around the virus and why the camps are so bad but by this point you’re hoping Arnie gets the job done and puts Maggie to rest.

Indie films are great and give makers a chance to explore outside of mainstream requirements. Here, we had a great concept and fine performances. But a film about dying needed an injection of life. Arnie will be back, hopefully next time the story will be better.

5/10