47 Meters Down: Uncaged has about as much in common with 47 Meters Down as it does with 47 Ronin. Sure, it revolves around sharks trying to eat people, but it’s nowhere near 47 meters below the surface and it doesn’t involve any sort of Mandy Moore-adjacent caging mishap, so basically, it feels like a self-contained, unrelated shark film that positioned itself as a sequel in order to ride off of the first film’s coattails.
Those coattails are pretty modest ones to target — personally, I would’ve gone with Jaws: Unhinged or The Shallows: Unashamed — but Uncaged manages to hit its mark, delivering thrills comparable to the original. It even finds a way to distinguish itself from the swarm of shark movies that have steadily invaded our screens in the 40-plus years since Jaws: by setting it in an underwater cave teeming with blind great whites — sort of like an aquatic Don’t Breathe. In trying to one-up the first film, Uncaged becomes more cartoonish and unrealistic (granted, not in the league of The Meg), but that also makes it more fun than the downer original.
Also setting it apart is the fact that the two main protagonists — sisters, as with the first movie — includes an actual “sista.” Jamie Foxx’s daughter Corinne co-stars as Sasha, stepsis of Mia (Sophie Nélisse), the resident archaeology nerd who’s bullied at their posh Yucatán, Mexico private high school because, well, she’s an archaeology nerd. Sasha, meanwhile, is a cool chick who’s saddled with the burden of having a dorky sibling. If only they could have a traumatic, life-threatening experience to bond them together and make them realize the intrinsic value of their kinship!*
*Warning: Familial bonding experience may cause collateral damage to friends, loose associates and less essential family members, including but not limited to: shark attacks, drowning, drowning while being attacked by sharks, shark attacks while drowning and shark attacks while being attacked by other sharks.
If you can get past the cheesy setup and initial 30 minutes of narrative diarrhea, Uncaged is a reliable source of the type of cheap thrills you expect from shark cinema, with the added tension of being enveloped in near darkness and without the periodic release that other similar films provide when the protagonists make their way back into a boat or cage. Didn’t you get the memo? It’s UNCAGED!!!
In her first film role, Foxx holds her own, even if the majority of the movie takes place underwater, and it’s not exactly Sophie’s Choice-level drama. Not that you can tell from the shark-centric marketing, but Uncaged has a pretty diverse cast, including Nia Long as Sasha’s mom, Brianne Tju as THAT friend who has the bright idea to do some unauthorized cave diving (along with another famous daughter, Sistine Stallone) and Khylin Rhambo and Davi Santos as assistants to Mia’s dad (John Corbett) who are preparing the underwater archaeological site the girls decide to explore and who may as well be wearing red Star Trek shirts.
All in all, Uncaged is low-brow fare with characters that range from annoying to ambivalent-if-they-die, but as it builds to a frenetic finale, you can’t help but be drawn into its ambitious idiocy. Here’s to the inevitable third film, 47 Meters Up: They Fly Now!