I don’t know why, but anytime there is a movie about a shark it does peek my interest. Perhaps it’s my love of the original “Jaws” or the fact that I try to make sure to watch “Shark Week” every year on Discovery Channel? I love things about sharks I suppose. That being said there isn’t many good movies about sharks at this point. We’ve been inundated with movies like “Sharknado” and “Shark Night 3D” for so long that I can’t remember the last time we’ve have a decent shark movie. Maybe “Jaws 2” (which isn’t all that great either but is a decent sequel)? We haven’t had a great shark movie since the original “Jaws”. So, despite my interest for Shark movies I never have that high of expectations for them. I can safely say though that this latest shark movie “The Shallows” is the best shark movie since “Jaws 2”. Then again that statement doesn’t say much. Once the shark attack starts this “The Shallows” does provide some white knuckle tension with some of the best shark moments since the original “Jaws”. However a weak first act, some unexplored plot points and a quite frankly stupid ending keep this movie down from reaching the heights that it was starting to reach.
“The Shallows” is as simple of a premise as you can get. A young surfer gets caught out on a rock after a deadly shark attack and needs to find a way to get to shore and survive the great white shark that is circling around her attempting to eat to defend its feeding grounds. One location, land just in sight but just far enough where attempting to swim to it would spell certain death for our main antagonist named Nancy (played by the gorgeous Blake Lively).
Like “Jaws” it’s hard to say whether this should be classified as a horror film or a survival thriller. On one hand this is a horrific premise that no one would want to experience. On the other hand the movie is about surviving and conquering ones past. In reality it doesn’t matter what you call it, this movie has moments of each genre and blends them together very well. The movie is helmed by experienced horror/thriller director Jaume Collet-Serra. This is the same man behind “Orphan” and the Liam Neeson action vehicle “Unknown”. I do quite like him as a director; with his movies normally the weaknesses are the script and not his direction (which I think was the main issue with “Non-Stop”).
For the first third of the movie though I couldn’t believe that Serra had a hand in directing this movie. While the entire movie is shot beautifully the beginning felt very much like a commercial. Serra has Nancy’s cell phone screen share part of the frame and then plays some dub-step party music that felt out of place to what the movie should be and what the movie did become.
When the movie finally slowed down and the tension begins to raise Serra’s knack for creating thrilling suspense sequences is shown. The build up to the first attack is palpable and there is a scary image of a shark’s silhouette coming out of the wave just before Lively is attacked. From that moment on I was locked back into the movie. Blake Lively sells us on her pain with a really well done performance. This isn’t going too mentioned in the same breath as Tom Hanks in “Cast Away” but for being almost the only cast member in the movie she carries it very well. ‘
I always remember fondly to when Marty McFly uttered in “Back to the Future Part II”, “the shark still looks fake.” This was in reference to seeing a hologram imagine of a shark for the feature film “Jaws 19”. Marty was of course in the future, the year 2015 to be exact. Now in the year 2016 the shark looks pretty real. “The Shallows” offer us probably the most realistic looking shark we’ve see on screen. There are still a few moments where it doesn’t look properly rendered to the environment as we’d like to see it but for the most part the Shark looks pretty real. Turns out Marty would have had to only jump only a year later into the future, the year 2016, to find a shark that looked real on screen.
Where the film really falters though is the ending and the story surrounding its main characters. In the beginning of the movie it’s clear that Nancy is going through something with her past with her mother and her father. This becomes a recurring theme throughout the movie but it’s never comes to a satisfying end. It’s just sort of forgotten and never really explored. Not that I needed this movie to be a deep character study but it’s a plot line is so clearly introduced, to never really see the resolve I find a bit disappointing. Besides that, the ending is anti climatic and stupid. At first I couldn’t decide whether it was awesome or just dumb. The ending could have been awesome if it were in another movie. “The Shallows” is grounded in a type of reality that is established from the very beginning. However the ending forgoes that for an action Hollywood style finale. Some might like and even I could see the appeal of it. However for me, it just doesn’t work with what the filmmakers set up in the beginning.
All in all “The Shallows” is a pretty harmless movie. It’s not quite memorable but not quite forgettable either. The movie knows what it is and thrives on it. It has a good lead performance, some great shark sequences, some solid visual effects and thrills. Some of its faults are more prevalent than others but don’t harm the movie too much from you being able to have a good time with it. It’s a really good Redbox movie. Completely worth watching but not quite one you need to buy. I thought the movie had the potential to be even better than it was but for what it is it’s still a good time.