The Shallows Review

“The Shallows” is directed by Jaume Collet-Serra which stars Blake Lively in the title role.  Blake Lively plays a med student named Nancy who is taking a break from school and life.  She travels down to the Mexican coast to visit a beach that her mom favored before she died.  One day while surfing, Nancy gets caught in a rip tide before being bitten by a great white shark.  Only 400 yards away from the shoreline, Nancy is stranded on an island of rocks while the shark stalks her, making her fight to survive a contest of wits and wills.

“The Shallows” is the perfect summer popcorn flick.  It is extremely low budget, and the filmmakers find creative ways to shock and scare the audience while being as inventive as possible.  The plot is “shallow,” no pun intended and the story is all too simple, but this little man vs. nature survival film is extremely entertaining and just a flat-out fun time at the movies.  Blake Lively was really good here, channeling husband Ryan Reynold’s performance in “Buried,” which was also a one-man show survival film.  Lively’s character comes across as a little one-dimensional at times but she develops significantly as the film trucks on.  Nancy turned from scared shattered surfer girl to a complete badass all within under two hours.  Lively carries this movie as good as Tom Hanks did from “Castaway,” or Robert Redford from “All is Lost.”  The big difference between those films and this one is that “The Shallows” is more fun.

Of course the real star here is the shark itself.  Unlike “Jaws,” which shows very little of the shark up until the end, we see the shark in full display within mere minutes of the opening credits.  However the shark isn’t overly used which usually happens in these shark pictures.  The CGI shark for the most part looked extremely realistic and it just amazes me how far CGI has come.  But there were a couple of moments where you could tell that the shark wasn’t real and that was a little unfortunate.  But nevertheless, old Brucee looked menacing and frightening as the six layers of teeth protruded from that monstrous jawline.  There are a few great memorable deaths in the film which are always expected and needed from any shark film and the way they were shot was in itself very creative.

Speaking of creative, Jame Collet-Serra, the film’s director made some interesting choices with the direction.  Parts of this movie are shot on a headcam GoPro, and a couple of shark victims are seen being mangled through the video cam which was a unique idea and it actually worked really well, utilizing today’s technology and weaving it into the story.  I can’t help but think they got this idea from a Youtube video I saw years ago where a man jumped into the ocean and a great white shark swam by him.  We see that all through the lens of a GoPro and parts of this film felt like that internet video.  Collet-Serra is no Spielberg but he did an excellent job creating tension and scares and he delivered a solid action suspense thriller that was entertaining on all ends.  Summer movie season is supposed to be fun, and so far this summer has been nothing but garbage.  I haven’t seen one truly FUN summer film until I saw “The Shallows.”  These are the kinds of films that we need during the summer, not the “Independence Day” sequels or the exhausting superhero genre films that are becoming complete bores.  “The Shallows” was everything that I wanted it to be and for that I truly deem this the most fun you will have at the movies this summer, and maybe “Finding Dory” as well.

As much as I enjoyed the movie, it wasn’t a perfect one.  I thought the whole plotline with Nancy’s mother was laid on a little too thick.  I just found myself not caring at all about her family side and some of the supporting characters really served no purpose whatsoever except for being eaten.  And there was a tacked on epilogue that was a little too neat and unnecessary that came off pretty cheesy but other than these little gripes, I found myself forgiving most of the them because everything else was done so well.  No film is perfect and “The Shallows” isn’t even close but it’s fun and suspense made me care about the craftmanship of this kind of movie.  The problem with shark films is that little known blockbuster called “Jaws.”  It’s one of the best films of all-time and is still scary.  No film has ever beat it and none will.  However there was a little indie film that came out a few years back called “The Reef,” which I conclude to be the scariest right under “Jaws.”  Then “The Shallows” follows suit.

“The Shallows” is scary, fun summer entertainment that will thrill audiences and keep them cool during the heat.  Blake Lively does a fine job here making her a badass female character to root for.  The shark is scarce but when seen, terrifying and there are enough death and gore moments to please horror movie fans.  If you like shark films then “The Shallows” doesn’t disappoint.  If you don’t like shark films, then I advise you to stay out of the water.

Grade:  B

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