VOD film review: The Shallows
Shredding of nerves9
Mike Williams | On 08, Dec 2016
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Cast: Blake Lively, Oscar Jaenada, Josue Lozano Corzo
Jaume Collet-Serra’s movie about Blake Lively battling becoming a giant, angry shark’s next meal admittedly won’t be for everyone, nor will it necessarily evoke feelings of a ‘must-see’ film. But in both instances, there’s plenty of reason for optimism.
Lively plays Nancy, an unattached millennial who goes in search of the picturesque beach her mother once visited in her surfing days. Following in her footsteps, she finds herself on the same sands in hope of catching those perfect waves.
Yet all is not what it seems within the vastness of the ocean that spills into this secluded paradise, because there’s a particularly large, aggressive shark with an insatiable lust to kill everything in sight. Initial comparisons may draw you towards Steven Spielberg’s Jaws but, in fact, The Shallows more in keeping with the shark smarts of Deep Blue Sea (albeit in a rawer, more believable setup).
Blake Lively, while not renowned for her cinematic roles and best known as Serena in TV’s Gossip Girl, gives a particularly solid, understated performance. It’s imperative she can carry a story that has very few supporting roles, thus relying on Lively’s individual talent to hold our attention as her fate to become the shark’s next meal seems inevitable.
This survival-horror certainly ramps up its intensity once the threat of the shark makes its presence known. The first 25 minutes or so eases us into a low key, relaxed atmosphere of sun, sand, and surfing; it’s somewhere the viewer can unwind alongside Nancy. Early on, when we’re in no immediate danger, we are made to feel spooked; with every wave ripple or underwater perspective shot our worst fears are preyed upon to nerve-jangling effect. But when we’re thrown into the life-or-death scenario at the mercy of the sea’s most formidable predator, director Collet-Serra devises ways of thrilling us with the consistent, often smart ways our lead clings to life.
While the narrative throughout The Shallows is solid and extremely engaging, the only moment that perhaps lets it down is its final five minutes. Affirming itself as an indie movie through and through, its resolve appears to have the Hollywood fingerprint all over it. Suffering from Peter Jackson syndrome, it doesn’t know when it should end – ideally, it would leave us with some mystery, rather than tie off the narrative neatly. But that’s a minor complaint in what is a surprisingly well-conceived, very effective survival horror.