Title: The Shallows
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Starring: Blake Lively, Oscar Jaenada, Brett Cullen, Sedona Legge, Angelo Jose Lozano Corzo, Jose Manuel Trujillo, Pablo Calva, Diego Espejel, Janelle Bailey
Plot: Struggling to deal with the loss of her mother to cancer medical student Nancy (Lively) travels to the same secluded beach in Mexico her mother had visited. However when she is attacked by a large great white shark, she finds herself stranded 200 yards from the shore while being stalked by the relentless shark.
Review: Director Jaume Collet-Serra really is a director whose work its hard to place as while he’s given us films such as “Orphan” and “Non-Stop” he’s also the same director responsible for giving us the likes of “Goal 2: Living The Dream” and the “House of Wax” remake which so memorably was sold on the prospect of seeing Paris Hilton die. As such your never really sure what your going to get from him and while the concept and trailer for the film really gave it all the potential of being another disposable summer release this film thankfully really isn’t.
Stripping the film down to its key elements here Collet-Serra really crafts something surprisingly special as he seemingly knows that the real heart of the film lies in the battle between Nancy and the shark currently standing between her and the shore... and that’s essentially it. This is also what appealed to Lively who was drawn to the project when she saw the similarities between this film and her husband Ryan Reynolds “Buried”.
True it might be a big shark which continually torments Nancy but this at the same time this isn’t some gigantic creature with super intelligence, which makes this already miles better than the countless shark movies which have continually attempted and failed to top what Steven Spielberg achieved with “Jaws”. The shark here instead is designed with a much more natural behaviour for the most part with Collet-Serra really only letting it off the leash in the build up to the finale. As such the shark only attacks Nancy initially when she stumbles into its hunting ground, while her injuries only serve to maintain its interest in her.
Despite the fact that Blake Lively has hardly set my world on fire with her previous performances which always felt that she was getting by on just being the token pretty girl rather than anything resembling dramatic talent and yet she is fantastic here, especially when its a role that requires her to act by herself for about 90% of the film though she does get a seagull (nicknamed Steven Seagull by Lively) to chat with. While this sounds like kind of a drag here it actually works as we get scenes such as Nancy treating any time she has to perform first aid on herself like she is treating a patient, which sees her talking her way through each procedure which largely consist of short term solutions she can cobble together on the fly.
Seeing how Nancy only has her wet suit, jewellery and a strap from her obliterated surfboard to help her, its fascinating to see how she deals with a situation which only continues to get worse for her especially with the clock continually ticking down to high tide. This of course means we do get some cringy moments such as her pinning a leg wound together using earrings and her necklace and it surprised me to see how willing Lively was to play a character who is essentially brutalised by the elements for the film, especially when she does all her own stunt work here outside of the few moment of surfing which were handled by pro surfer Isabella Nichols who also taught Lively some of the surfing basics such as how to Wax the board and attach a leg rope to give it more of an air of authenticity.
Outside of the survival aspect of the story we also get brief asides to her family as her father questions her decision to drop out of medical school after her mothers death, while her younger sister only further cements the impression we get of her home life. We also get passing interactions with a pair of fellow surfers and her local guide which while they serve to provide potential saviours for her its soon clear that its going to fall to Nancy to get herself out of the situation.
By keeping the shark for the most part for the final quarter it really helps build a sense of creeping dread throughout the film. At the same time while it might be a CGI shark it is still miles ahead of the phoney looking CGI that the Asylum / Sci-fi have been lumbering their productions with and it makes for an effective threat by the production not skimping on this element, especially as we all know how a cheap effect can quickly deflate a production of any tension gained in its build up.
One of the big surprises of the 2016 release schedule this is a film certainly worth seeking out, especially for Shark movie fans left craving the same kind of thrills that “Deep Blue Sea” delivered. At the same time its tight plotting and brief run time stop it outstaying its welcome or becoming too outlandish.