The Shallows (2016)


Once again, it’s time to not go into the water. Move aside Bruce from ‘Jaws’ because this big guy seems to be peeved and stalking shallow waters making life difficult for a holidaying Texan. The threat keeps at a unnerving high for the most part if not sadly dissipating during the last act.

Medical student Nancy (Blake Lively) is travelling to a secret beach where her mother once sat pregnant with her. She’s there to surf but soon the water becomes a dangerous place as a blood-thirsty great white shark circles the shallows. There’s only a buoy or mass of rocks for Nancy to survive on and the waiting game grows worryingly tense.

After glimpsing a Spielberg like opening that establishes the setting and menace to come, we meet young American Nancy who had hoped to spend a beach day with her friend but now gets some alone time after the mate bails. She’s a fine enough character, enough in the sense that you like her and do root for her which is all a survival thriller film can ask for.

Jaume Collet-Serra uses his mix of horror and thriller directing background well to give this movie enough suspense and bone-rattling unease as we sit waiting for the inevitable beast to strike. Sharks get a bad rep, none truly seek killing humans as a sport so we know this predator is bad news when it actively hunts down surfers for food and that means poor central lady Nancy is on the menu. Collet-Serra ensures that the majority of the film has a taut feel and the stunning location captured by Flavio Labiano ends up becoming sun drenched yet scary.

It’s an interesting watch, just for the fact alone of watching this capable woman suffer yet attempt to stay strong and smart in a situation most, if not all of us would fail in. That adrenaline of survival is always an entertaining watch because it makes us ask “what if?”, what if I ended up in that problematic scenario and that’s the power of good cinema, to immerse the audience which this film does well.

It’s a gimmick and been done in other ways before, but I quite liked the use of social media pics and video call communication appearing on the screen, like visual bites helping the movie look a little glossy and different before the watery kick of danger sets in. The other characters however small are also interesting enough in how they advance or break apart the hope of Nancy’s survival. Oh and I can’t do this review without mentioning the awesome and somewhat cute sidekick of the summer: Steven Seagull.

On the weaker end of the scale, the final act is messed up by an over use of CGI, from glowing jelly-fish which somehow appear just to help Nancy against the shark, and the shark itself gets seen to much. Like the curse of fake looking Bruce from the classic 1975 feature, this villain becomes an almost laughable vision as it attacks more and more. Also, the end in how stuff is resolved feels way less than solid than everything that came before.

Blake Lively aka piece of meat on some rocks is brilliant in this. I don’t believe I’ve seen her in anything else so this has made me hope to see her in other projects because as a near solo movie she carries off the plot greatly. The emotion and weakening progression is truly felt as she makes Nancy scrape and bleed through the ringer.

Begins well and has a meaty, tense middle but a lot of lucky moments and a weak ending gives the film a general popcorn, silly feel which is not a bad thing, just I felt the film could have been grittier and better.



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