The Shallows has a very basic premise. It stars Blake Lively as Nancy, a young med student who is reeling from the death of her mother. Nancy, to handle her grief decides to go to a secluded spot in Mexico (actually Australia is where this film was shot) that her mother had told about years ago. Her mother had spoken to her and told her this was the most beautiful spot on Earth. “She was right, ” Nancy tells her younger sister on the phone before Nancy heads into the water to surf. “This is perfect,” she says with almost a tear in her eye. They say their good-byes and Nancy heads out to surf, where she is attacked by an enormous shark. Wounded and stranded on a rock, she now has to somehow outsmart the beast and make it 200 yards to shore. But how?
The Shallows was directed by Juame Collet-Serra who has actually directed some very good films, most notably the flesh crawling horror film Orphan from 2009. He has a hat trick of films he has directed with Liam Neeson; Unknown (2011), Non-Stop (2014) and Run All Night (2015). These are all films that have their place in entertainment, but more importantly it displays Juame’s ability to show his ability to make decent action films. He is no Sam Peckinpah, but he is young and has plenty of time to get better. The Shallows is a different kind of action film, but despite some cheesy visual effects, it works mostly because of the undervalued Blake Lively. She is now more well know as Mrs. Ryan Reynolds, but in The Shallows she shows that she is able to connect with viewers on a very human level. Her performance propels the story which I was invested in and is worth seeing this film for. She is beautiful, yes, but she can act, too.
A lot of the shark shots are CGI, understandably and some of the shots work better than others. Since the film actually has Nancy at three different spots in the water ( a whale the shark has been feeding on, the rock she ends up on for most of the picture and a marker buoy where the film has its climax), we are not stuck in the same spot for ninety minutes. Nancy has to use her smarts to navigate her way from spot to spot all while nursing a badly injured leg, dislocated fingers, shoulder, stubbed and cut toes and a bloodied face. They put her through the ringer, folks. Anthony Jaswinski’s script lets Nancy run the gamut of emotions as she battles her injuries, dehydration, hunger, the elements and the shark. Jaswinski’s script does not overdo it and Lively delivers an excellent performance.
Juame Collet-Serra’s direction really works well here, too. He has long distance overhead shots in slow motion with Marco Beltrami’s unnerving score lurking in the backround like the shark is. The film is gorgeous to look at, but his Jaume’s direction is effectively unsettling and as a result I had a knot in my stomach through these shots. You just know something is not right. It is almost too perfect. When the action starts, it is violent and unflinching. Some of it does get a little too cartoonish, when the shark does things that no shark is actually going to do. Sharks are not that stupid, depending on the specie, I guess. Since I believe this shark is a Great White, that specie is surprisingly intelligent in a “complex” way. At least, that is what Sharkopedia says.
The Shallows is a short film at barely ninety minutes, but that seems to fit this film just right. This is a chilling, creepy, well acted film with an intelligent script and solid direction. It is not going to make anyone forget Jaws, but on the whole, this film shows what Blake Lively can do as an actress and just be known for who she is married to. Since a lot of the film is CGI, she is reacting to nothing, but she does it exceedingly well and I was invested in her fight to survive. The final action sequence is particularly cool and I had fun with it. Yes, I even laughed. Yes, it was that cool. One more point. There is a deleted scene on the DVD that should have been included in the final cut of the film. In the phone conversation between the two sisters in the beginning of the film, the younger sister sees something in one of the pictures Nancy sends her. It sent a chill down my spine. See what you think.
The Shallows – *** 1/2 out of 5
The Shallows – Rated R for graphic gore and violence, language, terror and adult situations
The Shallows – Run Time about 90 minutes
The Shallows is now available on DVD, On Demand and pay subscription services.