After a long time, we finally saw a major Hollywood production house making a film about a shark terrorising humans. That's The Shallows for you. With Blake Lively as the beautiful and gutsy lead in the film, the film is directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, who previously made the psychological horror-thriller, Orphan, and Liam Neeson's action vehicles, Unknown, Non-Stop and Run All Night.
Here's our review of the film.
What's it about
Nancy Adams (Blake Lively) has dropped out of med school, despite her father's disappointment with her decision, after her mother succumbs to cancer. She decides to go to a secluded beach in Mexico, which her mother had visited years ago when she was pregnant with Nancy and had photographs of her visit. She gets a lift to the same by a friendly Mexican who refuses to give her the name of the beach, just telling her to be careful. At the beach, she strips down to her swimwear and takes on the waves, as she surfs them along with two local boys. When it gets dark, the guys leave, however, she stays behind as she feels the emotional connect to her dead mother. Unfortunately, even a great white shark also chose to find refuge in the waters, attacking and injuring her, and leaving her marooned in a rock near the beach. With beach just in sight and a hungry shark circling around her, Nancy must gather her wits and make it to safety and not end up in the jaws of death.
Very rarely do you find a creature flick that doesn't suck in the entirety and is actually a genuine cinematic and even scary experience. Especially when it comes to sharks, Hollywood has been churning out mindless B-grade flicks one after another, like the Sharknado series, Shark Night, and others of its ilk. Only Steven Spielberg's 1975 summer blockbuster Jaws was the only true legend in the shark attack genre, with even its sequels not even coming close to its legacy. I am not saying that The Shallows is the 21st century's Jaws. But it could be the second best or third best in the genre. The plot of a woman terrorised by a lone shark is not something new, however the direction, for the most of the film, is very tight. With any lack of subplots, except for a tragic backstory (which we will get to later), the narrative mostly focusses on how Nancy reaches the beach and how she gets stranded there thanks to a shark. With not much distractions, it is easy for us to identify and find believability in the survival of the protagonist.The tensions built up in several scenes are very palpable, especially the first attack or when Nancy tries to escape the rock where she is marooned. The locales in the film are amazingly beautiful (the film has been shot in Australia), especially that beach and its pristine clear waters. I need to add visiting this place in my bucket list for sure. The background score, especially the use of songs, complement well with the scenes, and the cinematography is top-notch.
But the film's real winner is Blake Lively, of course. Apart for a scene or two, she is there in very frame, and it's her enigmatic performance that lends enough credibility to the plot. Not only is she a treat to look at, she owns every scene with dexterity, be it those surfing scenes or when she gets stranded on a rock, injured, and with a sea gull for company. With a lesser performer, the film would have fallen flat (that's why I wasn't too in love with Open Waters, another film about a couple stranded in open seas with sharks for company), but Blake is the life and soul of the film and is the reason why the movie doesn't suck.
The final act, as much as I was scared that it would happen, disappointed me. Not wanting to get into details here, but it was too predictable and also a bit over the top. Also I don't understand why a shark would go for a skinny girl, when there was a whale carcass floating around. Sharks do attack humans, but as food source, we are their last choices. Normally, we would have ignored scientific bit if it was a mindless entertainer. However, in a realistic thriller like The Shallows, scenes of shark hounding the protagonist get unbelievable after a while. There is another scene where a man is bitten into half, but the shark doesn't bother to eat him. And it's perplexing that corpse disappears later, when the surfer boys return. Though it can claim to be an original flick, the film has shades of a terrific but underrated 2007 film Rogue, that was about a saltwater crocodile attacking a boat of tourists and marooning them on an island. The scene where the shark attacks Nancy first is very similar to first croc attack in Rogue. The tragic backstory for Nancy could also have been avoided, as it is becoming too much of a cliche for a protagonist to mourn over a departed soul. Why can't Nany be a girl who has been bitten by wanderlust?
What to do
Despite several flaws, The Shallows is still a thrilling experience thanks to a few high-tension moments and Blake Lively's fantastic performance. Though not in league as Jaws, this can still qualify as the second best entry in films where shark plays an antagonist (though I admit my guilt of having enjoyed watching Deep Blue Sea more than this... My bad!).
3.5 out of 5
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