My last review, Mike And Dave Need Wedding Dates, I talked about films that no one had an inkling were going to be good. Mike And Dave was the perfect example of a film no one cared about so they just made a terrible film. The Shallows on the other hand…
The Shallows stars Blake Lively, Oscar Jaenada and Sedona Legge and is directed by Jaume Collet-Serra. The film follows Nancy (Lively) who gets stranded while surfing due to a great white shark circling the reef she is stuck on.
I know I put three names up on the introduction, but for the entire run-time Blake Lively is the only human on-screen. The actor with the second-longest screen presence is a seagull, who even features on the end credits. The majority of The Shallows is just Blake Lively against the elements. Lively as an actress has never been a big box office draw, with only a few large films and mainly television work, but here she helms one of the best horror films of the year (not as good as The Witch but better than Friend Request or that stupid Ouija prequel they’re making).
The film is rather formulaic, but that works in its favour. It’s not held hostage by a silly gimmick like 3D or found footage, it’s just an isolated area, with a ticking clock (the reef Nancy is stuck on is submerged during high tide) and a big-ass shark. What more could you want? Like most films about deadly sea creatures, The Shallows owes a debt to Jaws. The film is shot very similar, with the first two-thirds only hearing splashes and seeing ominous shapes in the water. During the final climax we see the shark and it’s pretty good CGI. The film goes a bit mad during this final part as Nancy and the shark go man-to-man (or should that be woman-to-fish?), but the film has earned it’s fire-riddled finale and has delivered its promise. It’s a shark movie, and it gives you a damn shark.
The most memorable (and scariest) bit in Jaws is the opening. A girl get’s eaten, but we hardly see any of it due to the scene taking place at night. We can’t see the terror so it makes it more scary. The Shallows takes the opposite approach, while still delivery scary results. When Nancy is first attacked, the camera stays on her face, before moving down to her shark-bitten leg once she gets out of the water. And as a medicine student, she attempts to keep her leg from falling apart with makeshift tourniquet and metal splints. More attacks later in the film give us dismembered legs and rogue jellyfish. The reef that Nancy get’s stranded on has fire urchins, with venomous results if they are stood on. The Shallows puts the pain front and centre and it’s gruesome but also one of the best things about the film. There is a tonne of blood, so if you’re squeamish then it’s not a good one to watch.
Lastly, the film looks stunning. Credit to the cinematographer Flavio Labino for capturing the beautiful Australian coastline. While there were some odd “Surfer Shots”, almost like a GoPro advert, but this is soon dropped for the excellent tense storyline.
The Shallows is an old-school thriller. The director’s other work is Non-Stop and Unknown (both unabashed B Movies) and The Shallows is definitely part of that same group, while still being one great ride. With a summer filled with flops and dull slogs, it’s refreshing to get a well-shot, well-acted, suspenseful thriller with a run time that is only 86 minutes long. If Alfred Hitchcock directed Surfs Up, it would probably end up something like this.
Score: 8/10 The best film of summer 2016.