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How to Beat 47 Meters Down
Life and Style Daily
August 03, 2021
13 min

After the success of Jaws, Hollywood can’t seem to run out of shark-based survival horror films. Since then, we have got super-intelligent sharks, gargantuan prehistoric megalodons, and even the land swimming tornado variety.

What Is 47 Meters Down?

The film 47 Meters Down by Director Johannes Roberts dared to take the genre deeper by adding cage diving, a famous marine activity among tourists nowadays. Some film websites even rank 47 Meters Down as one of the top 10 best shark films ever. It stars Mandy Moore, Claire Holt, and Matthew Modine. The film grossed $61.7 million worldwide against a measly production budget of $5.5 million.

However, we are not here to discuss the movie’s quality but instead to break down how to deal with different survival scenarios. We look into each character’s decision-making process and present alternative solutions that they could have taken to increase their chance of survival.

How the Film All Started

The movie begins with a pair of sisters, Lisa and Kate, spending their vacation in Mexico. Later, Lisa revealed to Kate that she recently broke up with her boyfriend for being “too boring.” To cheer her sister up, Kate takes Lisa to a local club where they met a couple of guys, Luis and Benjamin, who are into cage diving.

A Shady Shark Diving Trip

The sisters were invited to go cage diving, and they agreed after Kate convinced the skeptical Lisa that it would make her ex jealous. So, off to the pier, they went the next day.

They were met by the shark diving boat’s captain Taylor and his worker Javier. Lisa voiced her doubts about the trip, but the more adventurous Kate could win her over. So they take a small boat to the larger shark diving boat, which is in the middle of the ocean. The ship seems a bit old with scraped paints all over. Even the cage has rusty iron bars and seemed unsafe. Luis and Benjamin repeatedly assured the two girls that it’s safe and that they have done it a few times without any mishaps.

In the next scene, they arrive at the spot where great white sharks are often seen. Javier throws in a chum of fish bait and into the ocean, which attracts a few sharks. Everyone on the boat was delighted, except for Lisa. The crew set up the cage where their guests would go in to get a better view of the great white sharks and the ocean in general. Luis and Benjamin dove first. After the sisters get to suit up with their diving gear, Taylor gives them a few pointers on what to do once they’re inside the cage and down underwater. He also mentioned how their equipment works to monitor how deep they are underwater and how much air they have left in the tank. Kate visibly has some experience diving, while Lisa was a complete novice. We also learn some shark facts like how good they are at hearing underwater and why they are the feared predator of the deep.

This is the first red flag in the movie. The cage seems fragile thanks to its thin metal bars, not to mention its rustic color. If you notice, the cage also doesn’t have a floater, which can help it stabilize. Also, it’s sketchy that the cage has lights attached to them. Why do you need lights if the cage’s purpose was for submerging it for a few feet where you can still see the ocean’s surrounding using only your naked eye? In short, the whole cage set up is not meant for diving with great white sharks that can grow up to almost six meters or twenty feet.

Furthermore, the full mask and scuba gear that the two girls use are meant for deep diving. Usually, shark cage diving on the surface doesn’t require you to wear or carry your oxygen tank. For beginners, they typically wear snorkels. The oxygen tanks are also placed on the cage’s side or floor where it is most secure. In most shark cage diving tours, a trained diver is usually in the cage with the customers to assist them. If Kate was telling the truth about her having some experience in diving, she should have spotted some of these red flags and inconsistencies. Sometimes it pays to trust your gut’s instinct, especially if it tells you of danger.

We also might be nit-picking here, but another newbie mistake that Lisa made was not to take off her silver watch. You can see her wearing it on her left hand later in the movie, while her right hand has several accessories. When the sun’s light gets reflected by shiny jewelry, it can quickly draw the shark’s attention.

To be clear, cage diving is generally safe if proper regulations, the right equipment, and trained personnel are in place.

Disaster Strikes

A few moments later, we get to see the sisters in the rusty-looking cage and submerge a few feet from the surface. They get a fantastic view of the great white sharks and can’t believe how huge they are in real life. A few minutes later, they noticed the cage moved slightly downwards. In her panic, Lisa convinced Kate that they should surface immediately, and they told Captain Taylor, via a communication device in their masks, to do so. As the cage is being pulled upwards, disaster struck. The boat’s winch mechanism broke, and the cage began hurling down to the bottom of the ocean. This is one of the movie’s crucial moments, as the two sisters have a few seconds to react to avoid disaster. One of them could have reached for the latch that secured the cage door and made their way out quickly. Instead, they just grabbed the metal bars and just panicked. Have they remained calm, they could have easily thought of that easy escape.

Moments later, the sisters are now at the bottom of the ocean. The instrument in the cage reveals that they are now 47 meters below water. To make matters worse, the winch pulley also gets pulled down at the bottom of the sea, so there is no way for the boat to pull the cage up. Moreover, the pulley bar is pinning down the cage door, making it harder for them to open it.

If you are paying way too much attention when watching the movie, you might notice that the characters can communicate underwater even if they have their ears exposed. The mask they were wearing doesn’t have a transceiver, so there’s no way that they can hear each other. I guess we are left with our imagination to figure that out.

Trapped in a Cage

Going back to the story. Because the communication signal at that depth is weak, one of the sisters has to get out of the cage and swim upwards until they get a better reception to contact their boat. After a few attempts, Kate figured out that she can get through one of the cage gaps if she removes the mask first, so it doesn’t get in the way. She then had Lisa pass the oxygen tank and mask once she was out. Kate then removed the structure that’s pinning the cage. But she consumed a lot of oxygen because of the strenuous task in exchange. She then swam up to the 40-meter mark, where she was able to contact the boat captain. Kate was given the instructions that they should stay in the cage and the assurance that his crew Javier will dive down to reattach a spare winch so they can pull the cage up. It was also revealed that she only has 55 bars in the oxygen tank left. Taylor also advised them not to rush going back up the surface since they will experience “the bends” or rapid decompression sickness. It’s a condition where nitrogen dissolves in blood and tissues caused by high pressure leads to bubbles forming as pressure decreases. These bubbles can injure tissues and block blood vessels in main organs through small blood clots.

It’s another pivotal moment since both the captain and Kate should have assessed the situation more carefully. Both sisters have limited air, and just sitting there for help to arrive also has its consequences. Javier doesn’t have their exact location, so he would take some time to find them. Javier is also exposing himself to the same dangers with the shark as the two sisters. While it might be risky, they could have disobeyed the captain’s instructions and try to surface slowly.

Great white sharks rarely attack humans because they want to make a meal out of them. Instead, they prefer to eat seals, sea lions, and other large fish. In 2019, the University of Florida’s International Attack File recorded only 64 unprovoked shark attacks worldwide, of which two people died.

Captain Taylor’s explanation of the bends is only half correct. Based on the US Navy’s decompression table, a diver can spend up to five minutes at 47 meters below the surface level without decompressing throughout their ascent. Hence, while the danger from shark attacks is present, five minutes after they hit the ocean floor was the best opportunity for them to ascend.

Sharks are Among Us

As Kate was heading back to the cage to inform Lisa of the plan, a shark came swimming out of nowhere. There was a brief, tense moment when they could not open the cage door because of a stuck chain. When Kate finally manages to get inside, the shark rammed the cage and almost broke through one of the parts, thanks to its powerful bite. The shark left them alone after they calmed themselves and tried to be as quiet and still as possible.

This scene confirms our suspicion from the beginning that the cage offers limited protection from such large predators. Have the shark persevered a little bit more, or if there is more than one shark, then it would easily break the cage leaving Lisa and Kate to the whims of their predator.

After the ordeal, the two had a brief chat. Shortly, they heard the boat’s engine and quickly panicked, thinking they were left behind. Kate tried to contact the boat by swimming a few meters up like before. But, surprise! A great white shark rushes behind her and tries to bite her. So, back to the cage, she goes. When all hope seemed lost, they saw a ray of light nearby and assumed it was from Javier. Unfortunately, Javier can’t find where they are, so they decided to reach him instead. However, because Kate has been swimming around more often, she now has less oxygen in her tank at just 17 bars. Lisa decided that she should go instead since she has more air supply.

This is a poorly made decision born out of their desperation. The cage is more visible underwater since it has four light sources in each corner. They can also clang on the metal bars to signal Javier that they are just nearby. Also, Lisa doesn’t have a flashlight with her, which proves dangerous when swimming in low visibility waters. Sharks can easily mistake you as prey when the seas are darker or murkier.

Javier Gets Eaten

As she makes her way towards Javier’s flashlight, a shark sneaks up behind Lisa and almost bites her. Luckily, she found a shallow cave where she hid. The shark tried to make its way towards the rocks, but it was too large to fit in the gaps.

Lisa could have taken this opportunity to do some damage to the shark. She can throw some rocks and hit its sensitive snout or gills. Or she can aim at the mouth, and when the rock enters the shark’s body, it might do enough damage for it to leave the area or lose interest in its prey. If it’s the only shark where the sisters are, forcing it out will eliminate one danger factor to worry about.

Moments later, Lisa finally finds Javier after conquering her fears of going through what seems like an abyssal plain. But just a few seconds after their meeting, Javier was attacked by a shark. Later, Lisa found his lifeless body. She checked the oxygen tank, but it was empty, perhaps because it was damaged during the attack. Instead, she got the new winch and a spear gun. Lisa hurries back to the cage, informs her sister of Javier’s demise, attaches the winch to the cage, and goes up to contact Taylor. After returning to the cage, it gets lifted, and the sisters were ecstatic. Their celebration was cut early when the cable suddenly snapped with 28 meters to go before the surface. Taylor said he would slow down their ascent to address the issue, but it’s ineffective. The cage once again hurled down towards the bottom.

At this moment, the sisters should have reacted quickly and got out of the already compromised cage. Before they were hoisted up, they should have left the cage’s door unlocked so they can get out of it should the need arise. As the cage was spinning during the descent, they should have shifted continuously to the top of the cage, so no parts of their body would get caught when the cage touches the seafloor.

Second Fall

As a result of the hard fall, Lisa’s legs were caught in one of the bars, and the cage’s weight now pins her down. Kate checked his oxygen supply, and it’s down to 5 bars, which means she only has about a minute of air left. Amazingly, Taylor was able to contact them at such depths. He told the sisters the boat is going to drop two tanks of oxygen. However, he also warned the trapped divers that changing tanks may cause Nitrogen Narcosis (a.k.a. the rapture of the deep), which can lead to hallucinations and cognitive impairment. Taylor also assured them that the coast guard was coming with a team of expert sea divers in less than an hour. He advised them to stay put until help arrives.

In real life, though, it’s almost impossible to last that long in just one tank of oxygen. The ones they are using here are aluminum 80s which holds 80 cubic feet of air. According to online posts from an expert diver, that’s only enough to last less than 30 minutes when used on that depth. That’s under the assumption that you are not doing strenuous activities as Kate did earlier.

Get the Oxygen Tanks

Incredibly, the two new oxygen tanks dropped near where the two girls are. The only challenge is they have to retrieve it while eluding the sharks. Since Kate is the only one mobile, she heads for the supplies while Lisa tries to spot any potential dangers. Kate’s strategy is to stick as close to the ocean floor to reduce the directions where she could be attacked. She was able to get the tank, replenish her air supply, and bag three flares. However, as she was heading back to the cage, a shark emerged. She could mislead it for some time but prematurely decides to head back, thinking she was clear of danger. Kate, then, was attacked by the shark and dropped the other oxygen tank leaving Lisa with an almost depleted air supply.

In this situation, Kate should have looked around first and made sure the shark was gone. She should have heeded her sister’s advice to stay down since Lisa might have a better view of her surroundings. Kate should have also used the flares if she was having trouble seeing her surroundings. Furthermore, Lisa could have told her sister to take the spear gun before heading out to get the tanks. She could also crawl to the ocean floor to minimize exposure instead of standing up.

Running Out of Air

In her desperation, Lisa repeatedly hit her legs with a rock to free herself. It’s an unnecessary move since injuring herself will also reduce her chances of survival.

Just like what we learned in school, sharks can smell blood at great distances, so a self-inflicted injury is the worst thing you can do.

After thinking that her sister is dead, Lisa made a vow that she would not die on the ocean floor. Using the spear gun’s tip as a hook, she threw it in the direction of the other oxygen tank. Fortunately, she was able to drag the tank using the spear gun’s cord and resupplied herself with air just in the nick of time. However, in the process of getting the tank, she also cut herself with the speargun. This is when things get hazy and all mixed up, as later revealed in the ending.

This act by far is one of the more brilliant actions taken by any of the two sisters. Using the tools available to you and being resourceful can help you get out of tight situations. Aside from cutting herself, Lisa did a great job getting that life-saving oxygen tank.

It’s All in Your Head

Moments later, we learned that Kate was alive but was severely injured. Her Buoyancy Control Device (BCD) was damaged during the attack, and oxygen escapes from it to make matters worse. Hence, instead of a full oxygen supply, she has very few left to last only a few minutes. Lisa thought of a clever solution by putting her BCD to the cage’s bottom where there is a gap. She then inflates her BCD, and it was able to lift the cage enough to free her legs. If only Lisa thought of this idea much earlier, she wouldn’t have to injure herself, and they could have taken a less risky course of action.

In the next scene, Lisa leaves the cage and finds her sister, who is now bleeding to death. They have no choice but to surface immediately, even at the high chance that sharks will attack them. While ascending, they contact Taylor again, who warns them about the bends but reluctantly agrees to the plan since they are left with no other options. The sisters also use the flares to ward off the sharks. The first flare kind of worked, and they clumsily dropped the second. After decompressing shortly at the 20 meters mark, they light the third flare, which comes with a dramatic surprise. Out of nowhere, three substantial great white sharks now surround the sisters!

Race to the Surface

Taylor then told the girls to release their BCD and head straight to the surface even if their decompression is barely halfway. They complied with the captain’s ill advice. They were able to get to the surface quickly, but the sharks are still in pursuit. The guys at the boat spotted the sisters and threw a lifeboat. Just when they are a few meters away from the boat, one of the sharks bit and dragged Lisa down.

In this scenario, fighting a shark isn’t a bad idea. Some accounts of people attacked by sharks say they could escape the attack by hitting the animal either by kicking or punching. According to experts, sharks have three main weak points you can go for— the snout, the lungs, and the eyes.

While climbing the boat, a shark was able to drag Lisa once again and bit her torso. She was able to escape by gouging one of the predator’s eyes. Finally, they were able to get the boat, where they received immediate first aid. They were yet safe— or so Lisa thought.

What Really Happened

Moments later, it is revealed that all that has happened after Lisa got her second oxygen tank was just a hallucination. She still has her leg pin down on the cage, and Kate was nowhere to be found. She was even laughing and giggling, thinking she and her sister made it out alive. Consuming the air from the second oxygen tank gave her Nitrogen Narcosis, which the captain warned them earlier.

Ending + Outro

While Kate was still hallucinating, we saw a few beams of light. The rescuers have finally arrived. Lisa continues to hallucinate, and the rescuers were able to lift the cage enough for Lisa to free her trapped leg. It was only at the middle of their ascent that Lisa began to realize what’s happening. Her face shows signs of worry for her sister’s demise.

The film ends when Lisa and the three rescuers reach the surface of the water.

Final Thoughts

Overall, the movie had its great moments and gave its audience a bit of a scare. The twist at the end was also quite surprising. Kate and Lisa could have escaped their dilemma much sooner if they think things through and weigh their options carefully. But I guess, when Murphy’s law of horror films is against you, there is nothing much you can do.

So that’s some of the ways you can beat or make it out alive if you’re in a situation like the 47 Meters Down. Let me know if I miss anything in the comments!

Looking for ways to bond with your love one? Read ”10 Fun Virtual Date Ideas to Try During COVID-19” to learn more.

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