Blake Lively - Nancy Adams
Oscar Jaenada - Carlos
Brett Cullen - Nancy’s Father
Sedona Legge - Chloe Adams
Sully the Seagull - Steven the Seagull
Genre - Thriller/Horror/Survival/Bad Animals
Running Time - 86 Minutes
Nancy Adams (Blake Lively) goes to Mexico to find a secret beach that her mother went to when she was pregnant with Nancy. This trip was prompted by her mother’s passing due to a long fight with cancer, making her question her status in medical school while trying to figure out how to live in a world without her mom. Admiring the beautiful scenery, Nancy decides to go surfing along with two locals. When the locals leave and she’s alone, Nancy is attacked by a great white shark on the leg. Narrowly escaping to a rock 200 yards from the shore and slowly dealing with a gaping wound catching gangrene, Nancy must survive for 24 hours on this rock and reach safety before high tide comes in and gives the shark more room to feed.
- Blake Lively is an actress I’ve been indifferent on. I don’t think I’ve really watched anything she’s been in besides THE SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELING PANTS and GREEN LANTERN, even though I knew of her from Gossip Girl and her marriage to Ryan Reynolds. So it was really interesting to watch her act in a film where she had to carry the runtime by being the only real actor on screen for much of the movie. And I gotta say - Lively was pretty excellent as a young woman at a crossroads in her life after the passing of her mother. We understand her pain from a massive loss. We understand her need to escape. We root for her when she encounters this crazy shark and tries everything in her power to escape. Hell, Lively even makes a one-sided relationship with a seagull fascinating to watch onscreen. I also really enjoyed the one scene where she records a video for her family, thinking she won’t survive the shark attack. Lively acts pretty damn well and seems like a good reel for an Academy Award if the Academy ever considers Lively for an award [probably not, but you never know]. So I went in not really caring about Lively’s acting, and came out of the viewing wanting to see more of her in hopefully good projects. She’s really solid here. Plus, she’s very attractive with doesn’t hurt.
- The direction by ORPHAN director Jaume Collet-Serra and the cinematography by Flavio Labiano are top notch. THE SHALLOWS is a gorgeous looking movie, making Nancy’s nightmare look like paradise on the surface [the movie was filmed in beautiful Australia]. The framing of shots and the editing are very solid, with Collet-Serra’s direction showing much confidence and capturing our attention visually through tension and action. I loved the way the surfing scenes were shot, which slow motion turned into fast motion as the waves crashed into Nancy before she surfs underwater to gain momentum. I even thought the special effects were very well done and shot well, as the shark looked very realistic [at least until the end] and the leg bite looked serious as hell due to great make-up work. THE SHALLOWS has a light script due to just a woman trying to survive a shark attack, so the visuals had to be pretty strong. Thankfully, that’s not an issue here.
- Some people had issues with lack of character development for the people in the film, and/or backstory that some feel was forced and nothing but exposition. The supporting characters are all mysteries, but we know enough about them through their short dialogue and actions. Nancy is the focus of the film anyway, so the film only had to work with her development and character arc to sink or swim the movie. There were complaints about her stuff with her late mom, who passed away from cancer. Plus some found it coincidental that Nancy was a med student, who wanted to drop out due to what happened with her mother - feeling medicine couldn’t save a very important person in her life. And when Nancy gets attacked, Nancy happened to have certain unconventional accessories and tools to keep the wound closed as much as possible.
First of all, this film wouldn’t exist if a few narrative liberties were taken. Nancy using earrings, a necklace, and her wet suit to close a wound is called “survival”. If someone was trying to survive, I’d think they’d do something similar using the same items. As for the mother deal, I could see why some would see it as an unnecessary tool to have us gain sympathy for her. But after losing my own mother to cancer last year, I understood where the character was coming from. I understood her lost of faith. I understood her need to escape and figure things out. I understood her half-wanting to give up and her half-wanting to fight like her mom did. Personally, it made connect to the character more and care about her plight and her need to survive. You can call it cheap and maybe it was. But it was also heavily effective and it worked on me big time. Sometimes that’s all you need to develop a character, as it built her character arc in a way that was human.
- My only issues with THE SHALLOWS are the last few minutes of the film. With as much struggle and tension Nancy’s dealing with the shark creates, the conclusion happens way too easily and neat. It’s as if the writer needed to end the film and took a pretty cliche way to do it, making the finale feel more silly than effective. It’s not the worst ending to a shark film, but I was disappointed how it was executed. The epilogue felt too Hollywood as well, since everything before it didn’t really. The conclusion didn’t upset me or anything, but it should have been better and more nail-biting than it was. It just got a “really?” out of me, that’s all.
THE FINAL HOWL
THE SHALLOWS is one of the best killer shark films ever made, done for serious intentions rather than for B-movie humor that SyFy has no problem shilling. Blake Lively is a revelation here as a woman trying to survive while going through a traumatizing moment in her life, capturing every emotion throughout the ordeal in a convincing way. The direction by Jaume Corret-Serra is solid and the cinematography by Flavio Labiano is absolutely gorgeous. The ending was a bit disappointing in some aspects, but the 80 minutes before it are pretty strong and effective. JAWS will always be the king of shark films, but THE SHALLOWS is in the upper echelon of the sub-genre along with THE REEF and OPEN WATER. In a world where Sharknadoes and Mega Shark vs Whoever get the attention from this current generation, THE SHALLOWS is a welcome surprise that deserves to be appreciated for showing us that serious shark movies can still be made in this day and age.