Since the release of the strange and over the top Sharknado there has been an influx of bizarre shark films. Ghost sharks, avalanche sharks, three headed sharks, sharks fighting mecha-crocodiles, the insanity goes on. It seems every filmmaker who wants to cash in is trying to make their film as ridiculous as possible so their’s will be remembered the most. What they don’t know is that sometimes simplicity is best and that’s exactly what director Jaume Collet-Serra and writer Jason Jaswinski have done with The Shallows.
The story for The Shallows is very simplistic but manages to be gripping at times. A young woman named Nancy goes surfing on a secluded Mexican beach her mother once found twenty five years ago. Her mother had recently passed away which has brought Nancy to the beach, to honor her memory as well as to get away from any stress back home. Honestly this part of the film is quite dull. Sure it does a fine job of establishing our main character and her motivations not to mention it gives us numerous gorgeous shots of the beach and the surrounding area but even so the first act is a bit of a chore to get through. Of course once Nancy is attacked by the shark the simplicity of the story reveals itself and the film gradually becomes more exciting. After fighting her way from being stranded on a whale carcass of all things Nancy finds herself stranded on a bit of rock with serious arterial wounds on her left leg and burns from dangerous coral. Here Nancy remains trapped as the shark circles around her. From here Nancy goes through different scenarios first by tending to her wounds, which the film does a good job of making it seem as painful as possible causing me to squirm in my seat, trying to keep warm at night and trying her hardest to get someone’s attention. This part of the film is actually a very interesting survival type story as even the simplest of tasks seem agonizing and difficult for Nancy. As Nancy’s time on the rock grows short she begins devising plans to escape and it’s here that the film becomes tense. With her numerous plans and a race against the clock the story has now become thoroughly engaging. All of this boils down to an immensely entertaining finale as Nancy battles the shark in any way she can. The story is simply about a young woman stranded on a rock while stalked by a shark and yet the film manages to make it engaging by showing the pain and difficulty our main character goes through as well as gradually becoming more tense and the situation more desperate.
The characters for The Shallows are likable and interesting
Initially I found Nancy to be rather annoying to start. She’s introduced by being driven to the beach by a local man named Carlos and she just come off as condescending and rude to me. It’s unintentional yes but still she initially rubbed me the wrong way here. We also learn through a facetime session that she’s considering dropping out of medical school which again gave her some bad qualities. Thankfully once she’s stranded Nancy proves to be intelligent and resourceful, treating her wound as best she can, timing the shark’s movements and is just plain awesome in the finale.
What few other characters there are aren’t really worth mentioning. They’re in the film for such a short period of time that they don’t leave much of an impact, in fact most of these character serve as fodder for the shark. However, there is one very strange character I wish to being up: Steven Seagull. Who is this character you ask? Why he’s just a seagull that’s stranded with Nancy. No he has no personality, there’s no special cameo from a celebrity who voices him he’s just a seagull. The funny thing is I grew to care about that seagull and all of his little mannerisms and found myself growing nervous whenever there was a chance something bad would happen to him. Believe me when I say that you’ll grow to care more about that bird then Nancy herself.
Acting for The Shallows is well done
Blake Lively does a great job as Nancy. Lively does well at the start with her establishment of the character however her strongest performance comes when Nancy is in her darkest hour. Lively does a very good job of showing the immense pain Nancy is in at the start, which made already squirming material even more so. Most of her performance is simply calling for help but again she gets the point across that Nancy is afraid and desperate. Lively also manages to give a well done, though brief, emotional scene in the third act right before she does battle with the shark which she does with gusto.
The effects for The Shallows are well made considering the film’s modest budget. The effects are saved mostly for the shark and the gore, the former looking very convincing for the most part (and as a nice little nod to Jaws rarely seen until the third act) and the latter is actually very surprising. Despite having a PG-13 rating The Shallows is quite gory having mass amounts of blood, numerous close ups of Nancy’s deep wounds as well as seeing a man clearly chewed in half not to mention the ever present what carcass. The gore effects are well made but still it is very surprising to see what a PG-13 rating can get away with these days.
Final Thoughts: The Shallows is a simple yet entertaining film. Though slow to start it gradually becomes tense and dire leading to a thrilling conclusion, the characters are likable. Blake Lively does a good job in her role and the effects are well made. If you need a way to spend a lazy summer afternoon look no further then The Shallows.