Whenever a movie with a shark comes out, everyone immediately says, “Oh, it’s Jaws.” Well, in the simplest of terms, in that it’s a movie with a shark, The Shallows is Jaws. However, it is also a survival movie and a very modern one at that.
Nancy (Blake Lively) is a med student that is trying to find herself in the wake of her mother’s death. She has traveled to Mexico and a secluded beach that has no name—or at least not one that anyone will say—that her mother traveled to twenty-five years previously. Nancy has come to the beach to commune with her mother, escape life, and catch some waves. It’s an idyllic setting and appears to be a perfect day. Things go horribly wrong, though, when Nancy is attacked by a shark that has wandered into the local waters. With a nasty leg wound, Nancy manages to take refuge on a small crop of rocks that surfaces when the tide goes out. However, high tide is coming and with blood in the water, the shark is circling.
The Shallows has a lot of great tension, making it a very watchable flick. It’s not too gruesome, which surprised me for a modern film, but it does go a little overboard with its modernity and showing all the various screens of Nancy’s mobile phone when she’s using it. The film also has some amazing cinematography courtesy of Director Jaume Collet-Serra and Cinematographer Flavio Martínez Labiano. The best shots happen in scenes when Nancy is diving under the waves while surfing. However, once she resurfaces and catches a wave, there is some dodgy CGI face replacement as they put Blake Lively’s face onto a real surfer. Those scenes are brief, though, so they don’t derail the whole movie. I will also say that the final act of the film is a little much. Without spoiling anything, the final showdown with the shark drew some unintentional laughs and eye-rolling as the shark becomes some kind of super shark that can take anything. Also, the dialogue early in the film could have been a bit stronger. Screenwriter Anthony Jaswinski creates a nice situation here, but the dialogue, especially with Nancy’s family, needed work. He tries to convey a lot of background info in a short span of time, but a lot of that dialogue is a little too on the nose and didn’t feel natural when I felt the audience could have been trusted to figure out what the situation was through just visual cues.
While there are a few key supporting characters here, The Shallows is one hundred percent Blake Lively’s movie. For long stretches of the film, she is up on the screen all by herself playing off of a seagull. She does a great job, coming across very naturally and doing well with controlled terror as her situation gets more and more desperate. I’ve mostly enjoyed Lively in the films I’ve seen her in and I don’t think she gets enough credit for her acting skills. She’s definitely more than just a pretty face and she proves it here with The Shallows.
Overall, The Shallows is a good summer film to while away an hour and a half. It’s not great by any means, but it’s solid and in the summer of 2016, that means it’s one of the better films of the season. Check it out if you have a chance. It’s definitely better than complete schlock like Independence Day: Resurgence.