"does a superb job of keeping you on the edge of your seat for far longer than you’re comfortable with"
You’d be forgiven for thinking The Shallows was nothing more than B-movie pap about a CGI shark terrorising a stranded woman, and in part you’d be right. Essentially, Blake Lively’s Nancy is something of a care-free traveller keen to surf the waves her now deceased mother once did when she was her age, so she tracks down the secluded beach she once visited as a way of feeling close to her.
And while you could dismiss this as just another in a long line of cheaply made situational horror films, The Shallows has moments of slick, well-put-together, and inventive filmmaking that certainly elevates it into something that’s worthy of not only a theatrical release, but a film that works particularly well on the big screen.
Nancy’s journey starts off with an ultra chilled vibe that transports us to a scenic, peaceful, and inviting holiday destination – the type of private beaches you see splattered over Instagram but are never likely to experience firsthand. Our mood is shaped and the tone set, with some slickly edited moments as Nancy preps herself for hitting the ocean, the film can’t help but indulge in some particularly close-up shots of her constricted cleavage and, on more than one occasion, third person tracking that mainly gives us a prime view of her derriere. And while this aspect perhaps conforms to the genre in the crassest of fashions, the gratuitous exposure is wholly unnecessary in the context of the movie.
Just as we become settled and, dare I say it, have let our guard down, we’re hit with that impending sense of dread – notably when we’re in the vastness of the ocean and suddenly spot a large, murky shadow in the water or the sight of a fin. It’s a sort of contemporary take on Jaws for the 21st Century, with a splash of Deep Blue Sea.
As the inevitability of the cat and mouse (or should that be woman and shark?) game becomes all too real, the peril of Nancy’s survival as a lone, giant, smart shark toys with her in an attempt to make her its next meal reaches excruciating levels. The Shallows does a superb job of keeping you on the edge of your seat for far longer than you’re comfortable with. Said uncomfortabe prolonged periods mean director Jaume Collet-Serra achieves what the film sets out to do: not only transform you into a quivering, queasy wreck, but reaffirms that Spielbergian perception that Great White sharks are nothing more than bloodthirsty monsters.
The Shallows lives up to its thrilling and tense trailer, which is something of a rarity nowadays. It also does a solid job of telling a feature length story with essentially one single human character in the face of overwhelming adversity. The CGi is at times suspect, but then at others it’s more than satisfactory when complying with its storytelling – overall its shortcomings are forgivable and doesn’t tend to disengage you from being right there in the sea with Nancy.
Well worth checking out amidst the plethora of underwhelming summer movies either side of it, The Shallows often boasts moments of intelligence, stomach-churning gore, and a terrifying, clever beast that resides just below the surface. Expect to leave with your nerves as shredded as Nancy’s surfboard.