Starring: Blake Lively, Óscar Jaenada, Brett Cullen
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Running Time: 86 mins
The Shallows is an American film about a woman who travels to an isolated but beautiful beach in Mexico, only to encounter a terrifying great white shark that leaves her stranded on a pile of rocks just 200 yards from the shore.
As far as shark movies go, The Shallows is definitely one of the better ones (although its competition isn’t the strongest). As a pure thriller, the film works well in creating tension and suspense on multiple occasions, even with a few good jumpscares, whilst Blake Lively impresses in a very tough and physical role. However, its story is often extremely far-fetched, and means that the overall film comes across in a sillier fashion than it should do.
However, let’s start with what I liked most about this film. On the whole, director Jaume Collet-Serra does a very good job here. Throughout, there’s a lot of good suspense that keeps the film moving fast, and on one or two occasions instils a little bit of fear too. Playing off of classic Jaws-like sequences, The Shallows makes the shark an undoubtedly menacing presence, and although it’s not as terrifying as possible, I always felt that it was a genuine and strong enough threat to Blake Lively’s character throughout.
Also, Collet-Serra manages to direct the environment pretty well. The rock on which Blake Lively finds herself stranded for so long does feel claustrophobic, and the shark is always a looming presence, keeping the tension high throughout.
It’s a well-directed movie, apart from one detail that kept popping up and frustrating me as I watched. The location of the rocks within the bay isn’t always consistent. At times, it does indeed feel just a short 200 yards away from the shore, and tantalisingly close for Blake Lively to escape, but at others, the rocks are visually more isolated and distant from the objects around them.
I’d like to believe that this was done deliberately, to create a greater sense of isolation and peril, but the fact that I could clearly see that the rocks weren’t always in the same place really bugged me throughout, and contributed to the film’s rather far-fetched nature (which I’ll get onto in a moment).
Blake Lively also impresses here. Her character may not be given the most thrilling arc, nor did I ever feel much emotion as to whether she ultimately lives or dies, but when it comes to some extremely physical sequences, whether she’s battling with the shark or escaping away, she does a great job, and makes the fight with the CGI sea creature fully convincing.
I was surprised that there was so much to like about this movie, because I expected something far dumber. The only part of the film that lived up to that expectation was the story. It’s by no means bad, and the tension of the premise kept me engaged throughout, but there are definitely moments where the film wants you to empathise a lot more with the main character, even though the screenplay just isn’t effective enough to bring that across.
What’s more is that the final act of the film is, for lack of a better word, stupid. Again, I was engrossed enough by the tension that I still enjoyed watching, but the way in which the film draws to a close, and the way that the shark and Blake Lively finish their duel is frankly insane, and had me laughing my head off (along with several other people in the screening).
Overall, however, The Shallows was a big surprise. Shark movies are generally terrible, and I had low expectations for this, so I was delighted to end up with a tense, entertaining, well-directed and well-acted thriller. It may sometimes stray beyond the bounds of logic, but it’s an engaging watch throughout, and that’s why it gets a 7.5 from me.