Director(s): Jaume Collet-Serra
Writer(s): Anthony Jaswinski
Cast: Blake Lively, Oscar Jaenada, Angelo Josue Lozano Corzo, Jose Manuel Trujillo Salas, Brett Cullen and Sedona Legge
Reviewed by: Ian Evans on
Release Date(s)Jun 24, 2016 - Wide
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In The Shallows, Nancy Adams (Blake Lively) is a med student whose mother was recently felled by cancer. Partly to pay tribute to her mother and partly to spend some “what does it all mean?” time away from school, Nancy heads to a remote beach in Mexico to surf. The beach has some of the best surfing around and happens to be where Nancy’s mom found out she was pregnant with her. Little does Nancy know that one area resident wants to make this a full-circle story by making it the place where Nancy dies too.
After some summer movie eye candy where the camera lingers over Lively changing into her surfing gear — complete with Baywatch-worthy slow motion shots — her character heads into the surf where she meets two guys also enjoying the waves. When their entreaties to spend some time with her get rebuffed, Nancy finds herself the only surfer in the area and she decides to catch one last wave. That’s when she meets the beach’s less friendly resident.
That area resident is a massive shark who puts the “great” in Great White. Though he’s been enjoying an entrée composed of a large whale, Nancy proves to be an enticing human side dish. She’s attacked and the shark manages to do an extensive amount of damage to Nancy’s left leg before she’s able to haul herself up on a rock being exposed by the receding tide. It’s on that rock that Nancy must try to outwit the predator who only has to wait for the high tide to serve her to him again.
Director Jaume Collet-Serra, who has previously helmed Run All Night, Non-Stop and Orphan, has learned the lesson taught by Steven Spielberg’s seminal shark movie Jaws. That lesson states that the scariest moments in a shark film aren’t when you actually see the shark, but when you anticipate seeing the shark. The most stress-inducing moments of this film take place in those moments when you see a shot of the water and wonder if, no, dread that, the sharp-toothed jaws of Nancy’s co-star will suddenly appear.
Nancy spends most of The Shallow’s 87 minute run time by herself, save for the companionship of an injured seagull. She has to plot her survival, treat her wounds and plan her escape from a small outcropping of rock that will soon disappear as the tide rises. Despite the expanse of sea and the sweeping vistas, Collet-Serra keeps the camera closely framed on this rock. It’s claustrophobic. Nancy is injured, alone and nobody knows where she is. In many ways, The Shallows is like 127 Hours but with more curves and a bikini.
Okay, that lack of geographical bearings is one of the few flaws in this film and it’s really just a nitpick. Nancy repeatedly asks for the location and name of this secret beach and nobody tells her, not even the guy who drives her there based on photos that her mother took. The remote beach, however, appears to have excellent cellphone service and despite being able to video chat with her family in Texas at the start of the film, she never once thinks about opening a Google Maps app?
As stated, most of this film takes on or near a small rock outcropping, which means that Blake Lively is carrying this film on her shoulders. Jaume Collet-Serra has spent much of his career directing Liam Neeson, but Lively shows that she’s fully capable of handling the action tasks he hands her. Lively’s Nancy is tough, she’s smart, and she’s brave, especially when she has to do some emergency medical treatment on herself that had most of the audience staring at its feet.
The Shallows is the perfect hold-your-date-tight summer movie.
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