Film review by Jason Day of the thriller about a surfer left stranded on a rocky outcrop, with only a hungry shark circling her for company. Starring Blake Lively.
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Director: Jaume Collet-Serra. 86mins. Columbia/Ombra Films/Weimeraner Republic. (15)
Synopsis, by IMDb.com
A mere 200 yards from shore, surfer Nancy (Lively) is attacked by a great white shark, with her short journey to safety becoming the ultimate contest of wills.
Review, by Jason Day
!!! Spoiler alert !!!
Great White Sharks have the worse PR team in natural history.
They certainly need a drastic overhaul of their movie script approval procedures. From Jaws (1975) to Deep Blue Sea (1999) and Dark Tide (2012), we have seen a cacophony of Carcharodon carcharias carnage
Cinema has pretty much abandoned Piranhas as a ‘go to’ marine killer, despite 2010’s attempt at resurrecting such aims with Piranha 3D and its 2012 follow-up Piranha 3DD. Killer Whales were in there for a short while, but Orca (1977), even with Richard Harris and Charlotte Rampling, turned out to be terrible so it was back to the poor, maligned Great White with the first Jaws sequel a year later.
With Jaws et al the Great White is a mindless eating machines. In The Shallows, they are highly intelligent and manipulative creatures. They are more than a match for our heroine, all alone on her rocky promontory, like a sunburnt, gored version of Eriksen’s Little Mermaid statue.
After Lively kills the shark that has troubled her for so long, she gives the quickest of looks to the camera, seeming despondent, as if she is upset at the loss of her this most excellent of foes. Like us, she admires her vanquished enemy for its quick wits and ingenuity. But we the viewer admire the human more, for finally getting one up on the perfect natural killing machine propounded in films such as Jaws.
We are immediately forewarned about the horror that lurks beneath the waves. As soon as Lively prepares to ‘ride a tube’, the crabs quickly scamper out of the surf. Even the friendly dolphins jump over to her and rush to deeper water.
Lively stands her ground commendably with a muscular performance full of stamina. For those of an FHM-mind, she also fills her bikini and swimsuit admirably, with an inspiring ‘lads-mag’ shot as soon as she hits the beach.
That beach-perfect body is certainly put through its paces, to the point where Lively indulges in some self wound-stapling. As the film progresses, her body is increasingly devoured following further injuries. Nature and accident conspire to gobble her up; its actually irrelevant whether the shark gets her or not.
Set in Mexico, although actually filmed in Australia, The Shallows is a spartan film. Production designer Bateup must have scratched his head for many nights as how to show off his skills with only a car interior, a rocky outcrop and a safety buoy for ‘sets’.
It also has about as brief a running time as you can get, one hour 26 minutes from opening to closing credits. It could have been just a neat hour if the producers disposed with the lengthy character background from Lively. Yes, we need to know whom she is and why she is here as we are investing our time and money watching her travails, but it did need to be so detailed? It feels like a lot of screen-time filling fodder and an irrelevant and annoying distraction from the main event.
The corny, concluding scene with Lively’s long-deceased mother floating into view made me squirm in my seat almost as much as the fantastic, gnawing tension that director Collet-Serra is able to squeeze out of this limited set-up.
Despite the short running time, this is a very gripping film and had my heart racing and my eyes closing throughout, always the mark of a good horror flick.
Cast & credits
Producers: Lynn Harris, Matti Leshem.
Writer: Anthony Jaswinski.
Camera: Flavio Martínez Labiano.
Music: Marco Beltrami.
Sets: Hugh Bateup.
Blake Lively, Óscar Jaenada, Angelo Jose, Lozano Corzo, Jose Manual, Trujillo Salas, Brett Cullen, Sedona Legge.