Brief synopsis: Four teenage girls decide to go and explore an ancient, submerged underwater, Mexican city. When one of the girls gets frightened by a fish, she knocks over a column the girls get separated. Found by a diver known by girls, they are about to leave the water when they find out there is a shark down with them. As they try to escape, their exit becomes blocked. The girls must now find another way out.
Is it any good ?: Ever since Spielberg’s 1975 shark classic, Jaws, filmmakers have been inspired to make similar stories. Uncaged, a sequel of to a 2017 film of the same name, without the ‘uncaged’ adage, blends the idea of Atlantis and Jaws for an underwater, jump scare, romp utilising every cliche. Mostly enjoyable spoiled by a ridiculous end sequence.
Spoiler territory: step-sisters, Mia (Sophie Nélisse) and Sasha (Corinne Foxx) live very different existences in high school. Sasha is popular, whereas Mia is bullied and shunned. When Mia gets pushed into the school pool by Catherine (Brec Bassinger), another pretty high schooler, their parents, Grant (John Corbett) and Jennifer (Mia Long), want to know what happened. Both are non-communicative.
Grant, who had told the girls he would spend the weekend with them, has to work. An underwater archaeologist explorer, he is tasked with mapping the route of an underground city ahead of a team excavation the next week. He buys tickets for a glass-bottomed boat tour for the girls, enthusiastically telling them that they will be able to see great white sharks in their natural habitat, as an apology.
Sasha, who had plans to hang out with friends, Alexa (Brianne Tju) and Nicole (Sistine Stallone) protest. The parents insist that Sasha go with Mia. Grant also shows them a shark tooth he found. He gives it to Mia.
The next day, when the girls turn up for the trip, Alexa and Nicole come by and persuade Sasha to ditch the trip and join them. Sasha drags Mia along with them. The girls head to a remote part of Mexico, a lagoon, that Grant’s assistant, Ben (Davi Santos), had taken Alexa to. They stand on a ledge overlooking the lagoon. Alexa tells them there are two ways to get down to the lagoon, pointing out a lengthy passage.
Nicole immediately jumps into the water from the ledge. Alexa follows suit. Mia is reluctant to jump but after a little persuasion from Sasha, the sisters jump. The girls hang out on a dive platform and Nicole finds a whole lot of diving gear. Alexa tells them that it is for the crew that is coming the next week.
Sasha asks if they are near the underground city. Alexa tells her they are and that she Ben explored the entrance of the city. Nicole wants to go and see the caves. Mia is reluctant because it is dangerous. Alexa states it is dangerous but she can guide them. The girls all put scuba gear on. Alexa agrees to take them around the first cave once. Nicole is already in the water.
As the girls swim through the caverns, they use torches as no light penetrates down far enough to light the caves. The girls are all mic-ed up, so stay in communication. The trip is going smoothly and the girls are enjoying exploring the depths. They explore the ruins of the cave, lit by Grant and Ben’s earlier expedition. Nicole gets spooked. She thinks she saw something. She goes to explore. Alexa calls after her and gets no reply. The girls go to see where she is and find her looking at a fish. Mia tells them that it is a Mexican tetra fish.
The fish has no eyes. Because of the darkness below the surface, it has evolved without them and uses its other senses to track things and move around. The fish shrieks at Nicole, startling her and causing her to fall back into a pillar in the underground cave. Her flailing causes all of the girls to panic and they lose contact with one another temporarily in the confusion.
The girls all swim around looking for one another. Mia bumps into Ben. Alexa finds them and explains that they got separated. He asks her if they did not secure a guide line for exactly this sort of eventuality. They did not. Ben asks where Sasha and Nicole are, Alexa tells him they are by the exit. Before he can guide them out of the cave, he is taken by a great white shark.
Alexa and Mia freak out and head to the exit, telling the other girls what had happened. The shark comes after them but cannot fit into the tunnel of the exit as they try to escape. As the shark rams into the tunnel, the exit collapses, trapping the girls in the cave.
Sasha asks Alexa if she can remember how to get out of the cave. A panicked Alexa says she cannot. Mia says they can use Ben’s safety line. The other girls are worried about the shark. Mia says she thinks it is blind. The girls check their air tanks and venture back into the cave. They find the safety line and begin to follow it.
The line takes them deeper into the cavernous city. They end up in a burial ground. The line is broken. Alexa starts to panic. Mia leads them further down and they come across a grill. Alexa’s panic rises even more. Mia sees a mini motor and thinks her father, who is on the other side of the underground city working, must be nearby. The shark chomps into the motor. The girls cower as the shark swims above them. They find an air pocket and gather to regroup and try and find a solution to their predicament.
Unfortunately, the air pocket is going bad and the girls cannot dwell there for too long. Mia tells them that she will go and get help. She goes to find her father. Carl (Khylin Rhambo), part of Grant’s team, is working in the cave city. His light gets knocked over and he goes to investigate. He gets killed by the shark.
Mia hears a beacon and goes towards the sound. She finds the beacon and switches it off, keeping it. She loses contact with the girls and begins to panic. Her father finds her. Grant, who knows the cavern well, goes and gets the girls and guides them to an exit point. Grant has a manual winch that they need to use to get out of the water. Alexa goes first.
The shark returns and it has a friend. There are now two sharks. Nicole begins to freak out, jumping onto the winch and clambering over Alexa. Grant states that the winch cannot take the weight of both girls. It begins to slip. Alexa falls back as Nicole keeps climbing. Grant tells her to unhook from the harness. The harness gives way as Nicole reaches the lip of the opening.
She is dangling over the water, trying to scramble over the edge. She grabs a loose rock and falls back into the water. The sharks get her. A frantic Alexa grabs the alarm beacon and begins screaming. The sharks disappear. Mia reasons that the frequency of the beacon scared them off. Grant explains that they will have to find another exit. Alexa does not want to. He tells them if they stay there they will die. A shark immediately eats him.
Sasha talks a semblance of calm into the other two girls. They have to try and swim to safety, to open water. The girls go back into the cavernous city. Now in darkness, with only the flashing beacon lighting the way, the sharks reappear. Sasha gets sucked down by an underground current. Mia wants to go after her but Alexa stops her telling her there is no point.
Alexa sees the exit but Mia thinks the currents will drag them down. Alexa says not if they stick to the sides. They begin to pull themselves along the wall. As Alexa gets to the exit, a shark comes out and grabs at her. Her panic causes Mia to get flung into the currents. Meanwhile, Alexa frees herself from her oxygen tank and removes her mask, trying to escape the shark. Expelling all of the air from her lungs with her screaming, she quickly drowns.
A falling, flailing Mia, is grabbed by Sasha. They fight their way through the currents to another cave. They find an exit but the shark is circling again. The exit is narrow and they have to swim one at a time. Their air tanks are empty so they lose them in an attempt to squeeze through the gap. They make it to the surface.
Sasha sees a boat and they begin to swim towards it. A man on the boat cannot hear them as he comes out to throw chum into the water. The girls realise what he is doing. The boat is the one they should have been on with the glass bottom. They swim to the boat and freak out the passengers as they see them outside with the sharks. The crew try to get the girl into the boat. Mia gets one the boat but one of the sharks gets Sasha. Mia grabs a flare gun and goes back for her sister.
She shoots the shark and it releases Sasha. The crew pull Sasha onto the boat. The shark gets Mia. She fights it off with the shark tooth her father gave her. She gets back on the boat and the sisters hug. The end.
Written and directed by Johannes Roberts, with an additional writing credit to Ernest Riera, 47 Metres Below: Uncaged is a sequel to – a film I have not seen and honestly had never heard of – 47 Metres Below. It is a quite entertaining film and Roberts is a good director and there are some brilliant visuals in the film. The opening shot of Nélisse’s Mia falling into a pool, shot looking up from the water, is fantastic. It does not really add to the story, but it is a great shot.
Similarly, he makes great use of slo-mo – even in the farcical ending – and lighting. The jump scares work really well. The actors are also very good, especially the young quartet of actors, given that they are required to be frightened and screaming for a good deal of the runtime.
The underwater scenes – except maybe the obvious computer-manipulated strong current scenes – are pretty good, giving a good sense of disorientation and claustrophobia. The deaths are also well spaced out, even if some of them are predictable – you will definitely see both Stallone’s Nicole and Corbett’s Grant’s deaths coming – Tju’s Alexa’s death is a nice surprise.
The music works well, both with the choices for the lighter, popular stuff and with the more dramatic, danger alerting music good and well thought out. At only ninety minutes long, it is not a long film and keeps one engaged almost to the conclusion. Unfortunately, Roberts and Riera made the strange decision to write an ending that almost wrecks the preceding eighty-plus minutes. The ending stretches credibility in a film that was already farfetched and is the only misstep in an otherwise enjoyable film. Worth a watch.