The Shallows, 2016.
Directed by Jaume Collett-Serra.
Starring Blake Lively.
A mere 200 yards from shore, surfer Nancy is attacked by a great white shark, with her short journey to safety becoming the ultimate contest of wills.
Whatever you do, don’t go in the water. Back in 1975, a young director by the name of Steven Spielberg made almost every other person in the world fearful of the ocean after a certain shark-themed film ripped though cinema screens and Amity Island. We’ve always been fascinated with sharks on the big screen, whether as big bads, animated and voiced by Robert De Niro or part of an oncoming tornado, though we all know which one we all prefer.
Now comes The Shallows, the new film from director Jaume Collet-Serra who takes a break from trekking across Europe lensing Liam Neeson in countless Taken rehashes to tackle some more economical but endlessly more fascinating than any of the aforementioned Euro-thrillers. Economical in the best possible way to describe this effort with Collet-Serra and screenwriter Anthony Jaswinski utilising the most minimal of extravagances to focus on the task at hand, namely torturing us and poor Blake Lively with a giant shark in the middle of the ocean.
Lively plays Nancy, a young trainee nurse who is off to enjoy some much needed downtime in a secluded beach that her late mother told her about. Armed with her surf gear and not much else, she sets off into the ocean to catch those waves but discovers that a dead whale has drifted close to the bay and with it a huge shark, hungry and hunting. She suffers a horrid bite and with night falling, she is left stranded on a small rock close to the shore with said shark circling her, ready to strike.
The Shallows, while scaring us constantly with jumps and scares galore, is the kind of regenerative film 2016 has been waiting for: a shot in the arm that will raise your spirits again after a dour year with many a disappointment, it’s the kind of film to erase such memories of superhero fatigue and franchise tiredness, electrifying us with a jolt of good old fashioned entertainment.
While its hardly an original concept (ironically, Mr. Blake Lively Ryan Reynolds made the similarly-theme and just as tense Buried back in 2010), The Shallows proves that less can be more. The thin storyline is at times very silly and some of the CGI is lacklustre but ignore such contrivances and you’ll be rewarded with a heart-pumping thrill ride. Collet-Serra and co. too are aware of the one-trick story but they embrace it, managing to keep us guessing and fix our bottoms right on the edge of our seat until the very last moments of the film, infusing the film with a vigorous energy and constant dread.
Lively, our willing heroine is great throughout in easily her best performance of her still-blossoming career and uses what tips she must have picked up from her hubby to keep us enthralled throughout. Indeed with this and the upcoming Cafe Society, Lively is on the verge of breaking out into a fully – fledged movie star.
While it’s premise is nothing original and it looks a little cheap at times, the success of The Shallows lies in its entire company embracing its nature and running with it to produce not only one of the years best thrillers but one of its most unexpected success stories and a welcome change to the exhaustive efforts of recent months. Now, where are my trunks?
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★/ Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Scott J. Davis