DIRECTOR: Jaume Collet-Serra
WRITER: Anthony Jaswinski
Nancy is a med student who has decided to take a surfing sabbatical to the secluded beach in Mexico that her late mother once surfed and told her stories about. Heading off to the remote beach alone, she packs a small bag and her surfboard ready for an adventure. While hitting those waves, Nancy paddles into the vicinity of a dead whale carcass, and the feeding ground of a great white shark. After Nancy is knocked off her surfboard, bitten by the shark and 200 yards from shore. It will be a fight for survival as the tide is rising on the lone rock that Nancy has taken safety on.
When I watched the trailer for The Shallows, I had immediately thought, 'not another shark' film. When I read the credits and noticed that director Jaume Collet-Serra was at the helm, I had a little more faith in this movie. I'm in the minority of people that enjoyed his remake of House Of Wax and his extraordinarily dark and twisted familial horror film Orphan. The man knows how to make a gorgeous looking horror film. At worst, I thought if The Shallows is terrible, I will at least have a lot of fun with the visuals Collet-Serra will throw at the screen.
After seeing The Shallows, I quite pleasantly surprised with the final film. The shark sub-genre has become oversaturated with so many movies of late. What with Syfy's franchise of cheesy low budget shark movies Sharknado or their continued fascination with creating hybrids like Two-Headed Shark or Sharktopus, the list goes on and the results vary wildly. So it's somewhat rare to find a shark-themed film that is intense and keeps you glued to the screen. I found The Shallows did that for the most part.
Regarding story and plot, The Shallows is pretty simple. We don't have some overly complicated reason of how and why Nancy is heading to the beach or how she will survive her wounds and the attack. It's all pretty much straightforward from the get-go. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to guess where The Shallows will begin and end. Predictability is one of The Shallows most significant issues, but it's hard these days to create a film about a bloodthirsty shark and having the setup and conclusion feel original.
I found Blake Lively to be the winning element of The Shallows. The movie primarily rests on her shoulders for the entire hour and a half, and I think she delivered a solid performance. If any people doubt her talent as an actress, just watch her in the Ben Affleck-directed heist thriller The Town. I've seen a couple of reviewers claim that her performance and the actions that she takes in the film are not believable. The actions aren't entirely her fault, that's down to the writers, and I think she gave us a decent performance of a woman trying to survive a shark attack. She had me on her side, rooting for her to escape. So for me, she was great in The Shallows.
When it comes to tension and suspense, I found that The Shallows delivered those elements very well. There were a few moments within the film where my conscious was yelling for Blake Lively's Nancy to swim faster or watch out every time that she had to retrieve something from the water. The Shallows also has a few jump scares throughout. Not all jump scares land as you can guess when they will take place but in saying that, I also expected a few to be thrown at the screen that never happens which kind of threw me off on what was going to happen.
The cinematography and shark effects were impressive. Jaume Collet-Serra can make a gorgeous looking Horror film; there is no doubt about that here. The beach scenes, scenery, and anytime Nancy is underwater or on the buoy; The Shallows is gorgeous to look at, the standout scene for me is a scene involving Nancy swimming through a fluther of Jellyfish. When one stings her, and they begin lighting up, I found the scene incredibly beautiful. The shark also looked great. On the Scale of Sharknado to Deep Blue Sea, The Shallows is far superior then Sharknado and on par with Deep Blue Sea at it's best concerning visual creature effects. The only time I felt the effects weren't well done were the early surfboarding scenes where they superimposed Blake Lively's face onto a real surfer, and the result is a terrifying Aphex Twin look alike.
Now time for some tomato-throwing. The Shallows has a few moments of cheesiness scattered throughout it's running time. We have a scene where Nancy wakes to see a drunk Mexican bloke on shore; she screams to wake him up and go call for help from her phone on the beach. Instead, he steals her cash, mobile, and bag. So instead of taking off with her possessions, he stupidly decides to get into the water to retrieve her surfboard. Did the guy's mother never teach him about drinking and swimming? Well, low and behold, the shark gets him in the most predictable and groan-worthy moment of The Shallows. The scene felt ridiculous and slowed down the pacing.
I also had a few moments where I snickered during the final buoy attack scene. Am I mistaken or can sharks now chew through metal grating and steel? I understand that human flesh isn't that big of a deal for sharks but the way the shark chomps through an entire buoy like its cheese, I was rolling my eyes so hard. I didn't find that scene entirely believable. But as with any killer shark movie, I guess you have to suspend disbelief and the scenes where I really thought The Shallows would cause laughing fits were the 'Steven Seagull' scenes, and it turns out I was completely wrong. The scenes were where I felt the most heart. I never thought I'd want to see a seagull make it to safety more than I had in this film.
DEATH TOLL: 3
BLOOD AND GORE:
- Jewelry is used to close shut a shark bite.
- A surfer is grabbed out of the water.
- A seagull is injured.
- Someone is ripped in half. The upper body crawls away from legs.
- A dead whale carcass.
The Shallows also features quite possibly the best way a shark is dispatched of in a movie since Brody blew up Jaws. The shark swimming at very high speed and slams mouth and head first into rusted rebar, I thought the aftermath looked excellent.
I have to admit that I went into The Shallows with reservations. With the somewhat positive reception from critics and my own hyping it up after I saw the great reviews. I thought I may end up disappointed with the final movie. I was pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed the movie as much as I did. The Shallows has a few moments where I groaned and even though these scenes slowed down the pacing of the suspense, but a solid lead performance from Blake Lively and some great scenes of suspense make this one of the more entertaining shark films of recent times.