Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Juame Collet-Serra
Stars: Blake Lively, Oscar Jaenada, Angelo Jose, Brett Cullen, Sedoni Legge.
Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the cinema, along comes another shark thriller. Ever since Steven Spielberg gave us the summer blockbuster with Jaws in 1975, great white sharks have been given something of a bad reputation by Hollywood filmmakers. The success of Jaws also produced a number of sequels and other killer shark themed movies, some of them quite risible by comparison.
The Shallows comes from young Spanish director Juame Collet-Serra, who recently put Liam Neeson through his paces in the thrillers Non-Stop and Run All Night. Here Collet-Serra puts former Gossip Girl star Blake Lively through a wringer.
Lively plays Nancy, a medical student who has dropped out of college following the recent death of her mother. She is trying to find herself during a surfing holiday in Mexico when she visits a secluded beach that has a personal connection to her mother. But while surfing she is attacked by a great white shark. Bleeding profusely from a gash on her leg she briefly finds safety by climbing onto the rotting corpse of a whale. That only provides a temporary haven, for the shark again attacks the bloated corpse.
A bit of do-it-yourself surgery stems the bleeding from the wound in her leg. Meanwhile the shark maintains its menacing presence in the area – it has a keen intelligence and restless nature as it keeps circling waiting for its chance. Nancy manages to swim to a nearby rock formation, but with the tide gradually rising it’s obvious that she’s going to need a bigger rock. And with high tide approaching, Nancy is quickly running out of options. There is a buoy nearby, but will she be able to reach it before the shark gets to her?
The Shallows has been written by Anthony Jaswinski (Killing Time, etc), who has crafted a taut thriller that runs for a brisk 86 minutes. There is little flab on the screenplay. Collet-Serra created some claustrophobic tension with his Non-Stop, most of which took place within the confines of a passenger jet; here most of the action takes place in the open, but nonetheless he suffuses the material with an intensity and a great sense of claustrophobic tension.
Nancy makes for a gutsy heroine, and Lively is on screen the whole time, and she has a strong presence that holds our attention for the duration. She brings strength, resilience and determination to her role, and we are made privy to her thought processes as she plans out her tactics. She carries the film. There are a few minor peripheral characters but they mainly serve as shark bait.
Collet-Serra’s regular cinematographer Flavio Martinez Labiano has done a great job with the visuals, especially with a number of overhead shots that capture images of the shark circling its prey. His camera lingers over Lively’s scantily clad body almost with the same rapacious delight with which the shark eyes her off as food. The Shallows was filmed off the coast of Queensland, and Labiano makes good use of the locations to add to the suspense of the film.
The Shallows is one of the better killer shark movies hit the screens, and is more than enough to make you rethink your next visit to the beach.