The Shallows – A (Shark’s) Tale of two halves
After trudging through a series of messes like Ghostbusters, Star Trek Beyond, and Jason Bourne, I was looking forward to seeing a non-blockbuster with no pretence. Something with a smaller budget that actually had to be worked on. And for the most part, The Shallows does not disappoint.
Is The Shallows our new Jaws? God no. Shark movies will always be compared to Spielberg’s masterpiece, but so far none have come close. The Shallows is no different. But it’s certainly a very enjoyable survival film, at least for the first two-thirds. After that it becomes a bit of a far-fetched adventure flick, requiring some suspension of disbelief as the shark turns Jaws 4-ish and seems hellbent on taking down it’s human rival no matter the cost.
Given for the most part she is playing off a CGI shark and an injured seagull (nicknamed Steven Seagull), Blake Lively is excellent as Nancy, a young woman following in her mother’s footsteps to surf a ‘secret’ beach somewhere in Mexico. She is both likeable and believable in her role as the survivor of a shark attack, stranded on a small rocky outcrop just off the shore, by the circling shark waiting to finish her off. The scenes in which she is forced to tend to her own injuries, deal with the cold of an overnight stay upon her rocky safe haven, and work on a survival plan our very well filmed and scripted, and we find ourselves drawn into her story.
Once the shark begins it’s incessant onslaught on it’s potential lunch, things begin to unravel through some decidedly ropey CGI and some questionable story choices. We can criticise the shark’s behaviour (a shark would never really behave like that etc.), but to do so would suck the enjoyment out of watching this ‘woman v beast’ battle. It could also be argued that the better options for Nancy would have been to sit tight and wait for help (it’s implied that her rocky outcrop was going to go under at high tide, but the fact is by the time she gets off it, we’ve gone past the time of the previous day when she first jumped on, meaning that this particular outcrop is never fully submerged), but this is a survival story, and to sit and wait for help would rob both the character and the audience of the opportunity for her to save herself. This movie is about her strength and her will to survive. We didn’t want to see her rescued. We wanted to see her save herself.
Overall, it’s a surprising film. Suspend your disbelief, allow it some liberties, and enjoy this low budget creature feature. There’s some wonderful shots, especially the surfing shots early in the film, some great underwater photography and a good dose of humour despite the intense nature of the story.
Given all the blockbusters that have let us down, this one deserves a look.