Sunday, August 07, 2016

The Shallows

Year: 2016
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Cast: Blake Lively

Plot: Surfer Nancy Adams is attacked by a great white shark near a beach in Mexico. Stuck on a rock 200 yards from shore, she has to figure out how to survive before her injury or the shark kills her.

Review: Sometimes the best films during the summer aren't the big budget blockbusters with astounding visual effects and action sequences every ten minutes. Sometimes it's something as simple as a tale of a human taking on a shark.

In The Shallows, Blake Lively plays Nancy, a medical student who travels to a secluded beach in Mexico where her late mother once went to. She's attempting to escape her personal grief from losing her mother to cancer. As she hoped, the beach and ocean is gorgeous to behold. But not long after she surfs there, a great white shark attacks her. She swims to a rock and tends to her wounds, but is unable to make it to shore safely as the shark continues to circle her area.

The Shallows brings to mind a handful of other survival flicks like 127 Hours, Frozen (the ski lift one, not Disney), The Edge, The Grey and one starring Lively's husband Ryan Reynolds, Buried. Survival flicks are always fun to watch, even though it may get depressing at times, watching our protagonists suffer as they live to tell the tale, or die eventually. In this case, the thrill comes from watching Nancy trying to outsmart a shark while suffering from a huge wound in her leg. Then there's the elements of nature, dehydration, fatigue, sunburn and even more injuries suffered as she makes several attempts to either get help or escape.

Jaume Collet-Serra, known for directing Liam Neeson in a trio of action films, attempts something smaller here and succeeds. Understandably, his film is only 86 minutes long so it doesn't overstay its welcome, which is a plus. But what's better is the beautiful cinematography by Flavio Martinez Labiano, who captures the picturesque ocean and beach well, and films the action and underwater sequences perfectly. There's not a single wasted shot here.

Credit also goes to Blake Lively for making Nancy very likable on screen. Sure, it helps a lot that Lively is very easy on the eyes, but it is because of her performance that the audience continues to root for her all the way to the end.

Another thing I liked about the film is how Collet-Serra keeps the shark out of view for most of the film until the climax. This forces the viewers to use their imagination whenever something bad happens. The best example is the scene where Nancy watches in horror as the shark kills an unlucky bloke. We only see the aftermath later, but seeing Lively's reaction as it happens is simply astounding. Again, credit to Blake for her awesome acting here.

The film does drag a little whenever Nancy isn't thinking about the shark, but the script makes up for it by showing Nancy's ingenuity in tending to her wounds using her jewellery and talking to an injured seagull.

Overall. The Shallows is solid entertainment if you love survival films, or even if you love shark films. It is a better bet than some of the stuff out there now. (8/10)

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