Possible spoilers ahead!
This is another one of those movies that I wanted to see for a while, but nobody else seemed interested in going with me. Lucky for me, my buddy Jim wanted to see “The Shallows” too, so we rented it from Redbox while our other friend Laneit guest-starred on a podcast.
Anyways, I wan’t sure what to expect from “The Shallows” beacuse let’s face it: Blake Lively is not the world’s greatest actress. But what the hell, this movie has bikinis and sharks, plus you never know if a movie will be good until you try it, right?
“The Shallows” begins when medical school student Nancy Adams (Blake Lively) takes a much-needed vacation to the beaches of Mexico, where she hopes to find peace after the death of her mother. A friend of Nancy’s was supposed to accompany her, but when she’s unable to, Nancy decides to surf alone.
This despite the concerns of her younger sister (Sedona Legge) and father (Brett Cullen), Nancy even decides to remain in Mexico for a long time, explaining to her dad that she’s lost her passion for her life’s goals following the loss of her mom.
During her day surfing alone, Nancy relaxes by enjoying the waters and befriending some of the locals. Towards the end of the day, Nancy learns that the ocean isn’t as safe as she thought it was, when she is attacked by a great white shark looking to defend its feeding ground. Nancy now finds herself stranded on a rock some 200 yards from shore and seriously injured. With the odds stacked against her, Nancy must fight for herself against the shark, while also looking for a way to call for help and get back to shore.
“The Shallows” is a short movie, clocking in at a mere 87 minutes. This means there’s little time to waste with other characters or smaller plot lines. In fact, I’d say out of the 87 minute run time, Blake Lively is alone for at least 75 of those minutes. Unless you count her seagull friend who I’ve decided to call Wilson 2.0.
However, despite how short “The Shallows” is, it serves up plenty of thrills and scares. The film is a roller-coaster ride throughout, as Nancy’s attack and injury, plis the threat of the great white looms large over every scene of the movie.
As for Blake Lively, I have to admit she surprised me. Mrs. Deadpool was more than up for the task, although it probably helped that her performance called for more physical stuff rather than dramatic. Lively spends most of the film battling the shark, yelling for help, and tending to her bloodied leg. Still, she is convincing in the role and I bought into her desperation and danger of her situation.
“The Shallows” was directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, who is known for horror films “House of Wax” and “Orphan,” but he’s also directed three Liam Neeson action vehicles (“Unknown,” “Non-Stop,” “Run All Night”). The director clearly watched “Jaws” before filming this movie, because he took a similar approach in minimizing the shark’s screen time to increase the suspense and terror. By using simple images of a fin sticking out of the water or having its full body obscured under the water, it left viewers on the edge of their seat and it worked well.
But then Collet-Serra opted to show the shark in full obvious CGI. Chances are the budget for this movie was small compared to other movies. But if you’re only going to have one CGI character, you better make sure it is the best damn CGI you can deliver. Let’s just say they shark could have looked better during the movie’s climax battle.
In the end, “The Shallows” was better than I expected. This movie works because it knows exactly what it is: a simple survival thriller that doesn’t need much else. “The Shallows” is as stripped down as a film can get, and I appreciated that. Then again, maybe it was Blake Lively in a bikini that did it for me, who knows?
“The Shallows” final score: 7.5