Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra (Unknown, Run All Night, Non-Stop), The Shallows stars Blake Lively of Gossip Girl fame as Nancy, a young medical student, who travels to her late mother’s favourite tropical surfing spot where she is ambushed by a great white shark, and a tenacious one at that. Injured and in peril, Nancy is left stranded on a rock that only submerges come high tide, when she’ll be easy pickings. Only a mere 200 yards from shore, she’ll need some sort of plan to make it to safety in time.
The Shallows is one of the rare times where a shark movie takes itself seriously. It’s got more of a Jaws tone than Sharktopus vs Whalewolf, which, hard to believe, I know, is an actual thing. What a world we live in. The film immediately sets the shark up as a fierce threat, and not something to be laughed at. This is demonstrated by his ability to tackle a dead whale aside while in pursuit of Nancy, which is a lot more realistic than a two headed shark going for Hulk Hogan’s daughter in 2-Headed Shark Attack which, fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on your viewpoint, is also a real film too. Perhaps over the years we’ve grown more forgiving of ludicrousness in shark movies, but The Shallows tries to reclaim the sea world horror genre. That being said, if you’re looking for something to tide you over until Sharknado 4: The Fourth Awakens you won’t find it here. This is a clear thriller attempting drama, not Ian Zeiring jumping through a shark with a chainsaw in Sharknado 1.
Thankfully, The Shallows’ attempts at drama driven by Blake Lively, do, for the most part, work. Lively does a commendable job at carrying the majority of the film. She delivers a solid performance. Though most of her performance was either crying for help or screaming in pain, the parts in between where she shows her personality makes her likable enough that you don’t want her to perish at the hands of a hungry shark. She even gets the odd chuckle out of you so the film doesn’t leave you a tense and stressed mess by the end of it. Props must be given to the make-up department. Lively’s injuries and cuts get more and more grotesque throughout the film and become quite unpleasant to look at. The special effects on the shark are also quite impressive, you made a good shark boys, kudos on the shark.
However, not all of the emotion and drama stick their landing. At the beginning of the film, Lively calls her father (who is surprisingly not played by Liam Neeson, given the director’s past work) where he feels the need to mention her dead mother, that surfing won’t help her grief and not to quit medical school for surfing, all in one phone call. But fair play, he managed to get almost all the tropes of a classic father/daughter cinematic relationship in a very small space of time. It’s such a lazy exposition drop that’s so forced I found it impossible to care, especially when compared to the scene of Lively looking through photos that convey the message much better. As the saying goes, show, don’t tell. Come on lads, it’s film 101. What’s more, there are also a few moments of logic loops that completely take you out of the immersion and ruin the tension they worked so hard to build.
In closing The Shallows is a decent thriller, well-acted with very good tension and nice directing. The blood in the water looks stellar and it gives a great sense of dread and anguish. Though not for the Shark Week fans who need to see Conan O’Brien impaled by a tentacle and have his decapitated head used as a volleyball by regular beach goers n ‘Shartopus vs Pteracuda’ (again, another real film). The Shallows is an above average summer flick that those who want a film with less bite than Jaws, but more than Sharkenstein should get a kick out of.