The Shallows review
It’s kind of a coincidence (or perfect timing) that The Shallows should come out during the same time as Shark Week on the Discovery Channel. Though I’m not usually one for nature documentaries, I might occasionally sit down for a bit to see what’s going on with a great white or a tiger shark during that summer week. Like a lot of people, I find the idea of sharks in the water terrifying. The creatures are basically living dinosaurs with their only key instinct is to survive by hunting. The idea of encountering one while snorkeling still gives me nightmares.
What’s interesting is that out of the hundreds of shark movies that have been made for television and the occasional Hollywood produced features, the only genuinely good one happens to be the Steven Spielberg classic Jaws. When you really look at that movie again, it’s nothing more then a B-movie that was simply done extremely well. Most shark movies will either just do Jaws again (with a lower budget and bad actors) or try to add scientific or science-fiction elements that give sharks a reason to attack people. The Shallows is a nice change of pace by going back to a simple goal in shark movies; don’t get eaten.
Off of the coast of Mexico, a medical student Nancy (played by Blake Lively) is being taken to a secluded beach by a resident who refuses to say the name of the beach, only calling it paradise. With her family back in Texas and her friend still at a hotel, she’s making her surfing afternoon on her own. The majority of her day consisted of hitting the waves, calling her sister, and even meeting two other surfers. When she’s about take one last surf before the sun sets, she encounters a dead whale…and a great white.
The shark takes a bite of her leg and tries to pull her down, but she makes it to a rock formation where she makes a tourniquet to stop the bleeding. The distance to the beach is too far to swim without risking another attack and the other surfers have gone home, so she’s stuck there with a hurt seagull as her only companion. Attempts to get the attention of a drunk and the returning surfers only result in them getting attacked by the monster. As time runs out on the increasing tide, she has to use her wits to save herself.
I cannot believe that after forty years after Jaws, we finally have another good shark movie! The Shallows may be a simple film, but it takes it’s simplicity to terrifying advantages and creates an open yet claustrophobic thriller. It understands that what we don’t see is what scares us the most. Whenever we don’t see the shark, we get to know a lot about Nancy and how she tries to use her studies of medicine and surfing to see if she can strategize around this animal. When we do catch a glimpse, they make sure that the shark is big, menacing, and ready for the hunt on it’s human.
The Shallows plays like a one-man show…or in this case, a one-woman show. The good news is that Blake Lively is an actress that can carry an entire movie. She may be pretty, but you can capture her thoughts straight through her eyes, even as the sun glares. Making her smart was one thing, but they found the right balance to make her feel vulnerable. The writing thankfully stays simple as they might give us more insight into Nancy, but the goal is still not being eaten by the shark.
I’ll give this four and a half surfboards with a shark bite out of five. I highly recommend The Shallows as a small, but effective thriller. The summer may have gotten people to go to the beaches, but after seeing this, they may finding themselves staying out of the water.