The Shallows Review

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.

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Point Break Review

One of my favourite quotes on filmmaking is from director Jim Jarmusch; “Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels with your imagination.” While people might be quick to dismiss it, those who know their film history can argue the difference. We see this idea in thousands of celebrated films; Star Wars, Daniel Craig’s James Bond films and nearly all of Tarantino’s filmography. Sadly, it’s the same reason why shoddy remakes are made as well. What a coincidence then, that a remake of Point Break is out this week. How does it stack up against the original?

Point Break stars Edgar Ramirez, Luke Bracey, Ray Winstone and Teresa Palmer and is directed by Ericson Core. Based on the 1991 film of the same name, the film follows FBI Agent Johnny Utah (Bracey) as he goes undercover to stop a gang of extreme sports athletes from disrupting the world economy.

The script is atrocious. While the original had some moments of “surfer dude” talk about fighting against “the man” and “the system”, the remake just goes overboard, with every two seconds being filled with conversations about being “one with the earth” and “fear is the master, you are the slave”. It’s less of a script and more a collection of inspirational bumper stickers. The times when it isn’t the surfer dude mantra, is expository, leading to some hilariously bad lines. It feels like so much of an afterthought, I wouldn’t be surprised if the action scenes weren’t even shot for the film, instead a script and additional scenes were created after to get it into cinemas.

The action scenes were promising at first, but most are rather boring. The remake tries to one-up the original by staging several extreme sports; snowboarding, wing-suit gliding, base-jumping, free climbing, motocross and of course, surfing. They are linked together by something called the Osaki 8, a mythical set of eight ordeals to honour the forces of nature. This is obviously the films major selling point, and sure, it’s nice to see some breathtaking scenery, but even in what are supposed to be the high-octane scenes of the film, it falls flat. I’ve linked it back to the characters, we don’t care about them. We haven’t warmed to them so we aren’t bothered that they are coming so close to death. In fact they don’t care either. One of them dies half way through and literally after a ten second scene of mourning him, they are back to partying, drinking and having sex. It’s feels so absurd that I was shaking my head in disbelief.

It gets worse when the film tries to be Point Break though. There is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it reference to the Ex-Presidents scene in the original, this time with Barack Obama, Vladamir Putin and George W. Bush instead of Reagan, Nixon, Johnson and Carter, and obviously the film ends with the 50-Year Storm wave. But the worst moment in the film is the re-enactment of, in the words of Nick Frost, “firing your gun up into the air while screaming argh” scene. Once I saw Utah pick up a gun, all I could think was, “Don’t do it, please don’t do it.” It’s ridiculous and out-of-place and really doesn’t make sense in the film. There is none of the bromance of Reeves and Swayze from the original, so it makes no sense for Utah to not just shoot Bodhi where he stands. I would actually be more lenient on the film if it wasn’t a Point Break remake. If it had changed a few of its characters and it’s story aspects then it could have been passably enjoyable. That’s how The Fast And The Furious started out and look how well that’s done.

The French director Jean-Luc Goddard once said: ‘It’s not where you take things from – it’s where you take them to.” Director Ericson Core has taken Point Break to the depths of cinema hell. Don’t waste your money, I’ve haven’t even seen Deadpool yet and I bet it’s more enjoyable.

Score: 2/10 Take the film out of the cinema and shove it down the toilet.

(I did go and see Deadpool and it was more entertaining. Read the review here).