2016 release reviews have been far and few here. Especially the bigger ones. Nothing just seemed to peak my interest enough to get me to go to the theatres other than the whole Fantasia phase in late July. Regardless, I rented The Shallows a few weeks ago and gave it a go. The Shallows crept up on me. I had no idea that it was coming out until it was released and mixed reviews showed up (although a lot of them were on the favorable side, I believe).
Let’s check it out!
The Shallows (2016)
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Cast: Blake Lively, Oscar Jaenada, Brett Cullen, Sedona Legge
A mere 200 yards from shore, surfer Nancy is attacked by a great white shark, with her short journey to safety becoming the ultimate contest of wills. –IMDB
I love shark movies. To actual bits. Sure, there are a few really fluky ones but whether its the “so bad its good” Sharknado or the 90s Deep Blue Sea or the Australian horror thriller The Reef and of course, the classic Jaws, they are packed with so much awesomeness. The Shallows looks like it has that grasped well and it does deliver for the most part. Sure, there are always things of circumstance like we learn that our protagonist Nancy (played by Blake Lively) is studying to be a nurse. What better than a nurse with some medical skills to be attacked by a shark, right? Except while The Shallows is about Nancy and her fight to survive back to shore, its also a character study and development. Jaume Collet-Serra has directed a good portion of thrillers in his filmography, half of them are action thrillers with Liam Neeson but there are some standout titles like Orphan which is the first time I’ve seen his work and love that one quite a bit. Its nice to see him jumping back into a horror thriller like this one. While I do have to say it packs more thrills than horror, there is a lot about how he makes The Shallows and not revealing the shark so much but rather the water perspectives that make the movie a much more thrilling and engaging experience. When you bond with a seagull, you know that the protagonist and the plot has had some effect.
While there are a few scenes with other characters, like the opening bits mostly, a good part of this movie is really just spending time with Nancy alone in the middle of The Shallows with the beach only a little ways away. What makes Nancy great is that she is smart and resourceful. While there are some convenient situations, there are always changing factors to keep the pacing intriguing to see what else she can do and what other options her character thinks of. Especially because Nancy is not only trapped and hunted, but she is hurt. It is a race with time for her especially the changing tides. The Shallows is a thrilling race to safety and survival against a shark but we slowly realize that Nancy isn’t just a hot body, she also has some issues she needs to work out. It is why she surfs and why she hasn’t decided to settle down and stop surfing and travelling around the world and pursuing her career. Blake Lively has gone a long way. I’ve always enjoyed her as an actress, whether it was in her younger roles in The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants or later on in Gossip Girl and this role shows how much she has grown as an actress.
It is a little funny how I’m writing this coming off of discussing another thriller called “Blood in the Water” over at That Moment In which you can find here. What we criticized in that one as making it even more lackluster was what I liked a lot about this one. Essentially the finale of the movie is somewhat shown in the beginning and then it backtracks to the days as we hit that moment we started with. Another thing that is pretty nice about The Shallows is that while it takes great joy in being a serious thriller, there are still taunting moments that are fun, even if a little predictable of the outcome. They fit together to piece together what we do see in the opening scene as well.
Thrilling shark movies are rather hard to find. The Shallows is one that I truly enjoyed a lot. It had tense and intriguing moments. It tries to be thoughtful and aims for a deeper character study of than just human vs. shark and Blake Lively pulls off a great performance as Nancy, a smart and competent character. There is a lot to love in shark movies in a genre that is generally full of tropes and predictable moments, this one pulls off a few fun surprises and a thrilling movie experience.
Have you seen The Shallows? What is your favorite shark movie?