Let me begin by saying that I am a “Shark Week” aficionado. I have been watching Shark Week since it’s inception and have not missed one since, so it was only obvious that I would be screening The Shallows during Shark Week.
The Shallows is not a horror film as advanced publicity is selling it as, or a modern version “Jaws”. No, this film is more of a survivor thriller/surfer film. It’s woman versus nature, or in this case with nature being represented most of the time by a great white the size of a Yacht.
Nancy (Blake Lively) is an American medical student and surfer who becomes injured by the beast when she stumbles into it’s feeding while surfing a nameless beach in Mexico that used to be a favorite of her mother, who recently died of cancer. Now, the first twenty minutes of the film is nothing more than Nancy using her phone to message her friend who has left her hanging to keep partying. The story of her mother is also told through super imposed images of her phone as she goes over old photos of her family and face times with her little sister and father. The rest are shots of Lively swimming against the current (a theme though out the film) and slow motion under water shots of her in a tiny bikini. She comes across two other Mexican male surfers who tell her the dangers of the lagoon. Now here is where the holes begin…after the surfers leave they failed to mention the gigantic humpback carcass floating only yards from the beach although they had been surfing there all day, Nancy is attacked by the shark because she stumbled into its feeding ground. The rest of the film is survival and problem solving by a female who refuses to give up and a strong will to live.
Lively is superb in this film, giving a hyper focused performance and drawing the audience and making it a one-woman show. There are a few supporting acts…but most end up as shark bait. Although Lively did most of her own surfing, you can tell when the double filled in for the more dangerous curls.
The Shallows tries to hard to become a dramatic thriller and never realizes how little it needs to get its point across. It had potential to be a more powerful film, and perhaps in the same genre as Cast Away and perhaps even Jaws. The scenery is beautiful and some of the underwater camera work is a thing of beauty but with its lack of storytelling, director Jaume Collet-Serra tries to over dramatize a film that was perhaps wrongly advertised. Packed with action and skimpy wardrobe, in the end The Shallows feels like a surf film with a shark in it.
By Hiram Trillo
Runnig time 87 min.