THE SHALLOWS

Directed by: – Jaume Collet-Serra

Produced by: – Lynn Harris, Matti Leshem

Starring: – Blake Lively

Runtime: – 86minutes (1hr 26mins)

Not Just Another Day At The Beach.

If anyone knows me, they will know that one of my greatest fears in this world is to be stuck in the ocean with Sharks swimming around me. Even though I never swim in the ocean or have encountered one in my life unless it was through an aquarium I guess the work they’ve done in video games and movies have helped developed that phobia. Watching them on the silver screen or fighting them in video games have convinced me that they may be one of the greatest foes one could face. They glide through the ocean with ease; they are cold and emotionless as well dumb and most of all they are scarily relentless and will stop at nothing until their target is a piece of  munched up carcass. With characteristics like that it’s not a surprise that we choose to dedicate a week of the year to these creatures.

Despite all this talk, films featuring Sharks that mercilessly attack their prey whilst scaring the day lights out of the crowd has sort of become a lost art. A sub –genre of horror films that were popularized by Steven Spielberg’s Jaws and other films like Deep Blue Sea have become hammy and clichéd and they have now been viciously satirized by ridiculous movies like the Sharknado series, 2-Headed Shark Attack and Sharktopus. When The Shallows was announced many touted it as Gravity meets Jaws. I was quite intrigued by the films premise and I was even more interested to see it when I heard that Ryan Reynolds significant other Blake Lively was attached to this survival horror.

Nancy (Blake Lively) prepares to go for the most dangerous surf of her life.

Nancy (Blake Lively) prepares to go for the most dangerous surf of her life.

The Shallows follows med student Nancy Adams (Blake Lively), who is feeling down from the death of her mother. She decided to take a much-needed vacation to a secluded beach for peace and quiet. Despite the clear dangers of surfing alone, Nancy decides to soak up the sun and hit the waves. Suddenly a Great White Shark attacks her. The fierce encounter forces her to retreat to a giant rock for safety. The previous skirmish with the fearsome shark has left her injured and stranded approximately 200 yards from shore, Nancy must now muster the courage to fight for her life and pull herself back to safety whilst avoiding the deadly predator in its stomping ground. Under the direction of Juame Collet-Serra who is currently known for directing a hat trick of Liam Neeson movies (Unknown, Non-Stop & Run All night), does this movie have enough energy to revive a lost sub-genre? Lets take a look at the pros and cons to determine whether this film should be watched or whether it should swim with the fishes.

PROS

  • A movie that focuses on one character and location means that the cinematography needs to be on point. Fortunately this movie delivers on this front as we get great angles of the ocean and the beach. We get great slow-mo shots of Blake Lively surfing through the waves. The Shark’s point of view shots are used sparingly and more importantly well enough to create tension when the film requires it. This film also cleverly uses found footage to help progress the plot as well. To conclude this particular point, the film’s cinematography was great as it manages to pull the crowd into its world.
  • I really appreciate the fact that the team behind this movie realized how simple the movie’s premise is. Girl goes to beach, a Great White Shark attacks girl and she must survive. The movie focuses on this premise to the point the movie is concise and isn’t longer than it needs to be. The movie takes a minimalist approach and I appreciate the fact that it refers to past events through photos and face time and not flashbacks, as that method of story telling would have easily broken the immersion.
  • The film  expertly builds  tension and keeps playing with your expectations of when the Great White Shark will appear.  Messing with the viewers expectations makes me admire the film even more  and it is arguably  an even more frightening experience as a result . The movie  only shows damage  the shark causes through skin deep cuts and the occasional pool of blood  and doesn’t rely on a massive amount of gore to show how scary the Great White is. The film makers were able to achieve this thanks to the mind games they play with us and also remind us that some of the scariest movies don’t need copious amount of blood and guts to get  their scare. 
  • The shark that is mostly CGI looks great and it is terrifying. Up to this point Shark’s have been the laughing stock of the industry and its about to change with this movie. This Great White Shark means business as it is huge,extremely relentless and like I mentioned before shows up when you least expect it. I would even argue that this Great White Shark can destroy Steven Spielberg’s Jaws in a matter of seconds. 
  • One of the hardest things an actor or actress can do is act on set by themselves. Blake Lively does an admirable job of this gargantuan task. She portrays Nancy as a brave and resourceful character who will fight against the odds to survive what  many would consider to be a hopeless situation.  As well as playing an empowered character she also gets to display her acting chops when we see Nancy at her most vulnerable moments and she even has  little humorous moments when she  interacts with a Seagull she dubs ‘Steven Seagull’.  
Nancy doing whatever it takes to survive this Shark-infested water.

Nancy doing whatever it takes to survive this Shark-infested water.

CONS

  • The movie feels the need to add some family drama to the mix. I don’t think the audience will care too much about the fact that Nancy is refusing to come home and would rather focus on the fact that she has to survive. Luckily this aspect of the movie isn’t very intrusive and it doesn’t really hurt the overall experience.
  • During the opening minutes of the movie there is a bit of a tonal clash, which comes off, as a little cheesy and silly. During this sequence the movie opts to use grating contemporary pop and then the tone whiplashes into one filled with suspense. I feel that the opening would have been a lot better if the movie was more consistent in that regard.

 

The Great White Shark lurks.

The Great White Shark lurks.

The Shallows doesn’t  bring anything new to the table to this sub-genre but its solid execution, lean duration and great performance from its star  transcends this  Shark-attack from the depths and places it on the podium as the greatest Shark film since the original Jaws. A highly recommended watch. 

RATING :- WORTH A WATCH 

 

Olisa Nwokedi
About The Author
- Olisa is an Aberystwyth University law graduate and Fordham University School of Law Masters graduate who was admitted into the Nigerian Bar in July 2016. He enjoys playing and watching rugby, writing, watching movies, playing video-games and Shark wrestling.......... that last part was fiction.