If you dip your toe in the shark movie pool, you better come prepared. Not only are you going up against the behemoths that are Sharknado and Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus there’s also the shadow of a certain Spielberg film looming on the horizon. And yet despite that toothy opposition The Shallows has slipped in any way.
Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra the film sees Blake Lively’s surfer Nancy stranded just 200 yards from the shore on a rock that will disappear when the tide changes. Unfortunately, those 200 yards are filled up by a particularly malicious shark which has already left a toothy mark on her leg. With an injured seagull for company, she has to figure out how to survive.
Which is an incredibly simple plot for a movie and with a budget of only $17 million don’t mistake this for anything but the B-movie it is. And yet it rises above those roots due to a quite frankly brilliant performance from Lively. For most of the film, she is the only human actor on screen, and it transforms this into an incredibly physical experience. The moments where she talks herself through self-surgery stride far above a film that is essentially about a pissed off shark.
However, the small scale nature of this film does hurt it at times. The special effects are used sparingly, and we usually see glimpses of the shark rather than the whole thing. However, on the rare occasions when the shark is given to us front and centre you can see the lines, and it takes you out of the film momentarily. Collet-Serra’s camera does also spend a little bit too much time focusing on Lively’s bikini-clad body, and it gets a bit tiresome.
Despite those issues, this is still one of those films that can go down as a surprising gem. From the moment that Nancy steps into the water, you find yourself on edge, waiting for the attack. Even when the shark appears its limited use leaves you always wondering where it is going to come up next (although it does seem to be a shark that not only holds a grudge but keeps a pretty regular schedule).
Considering most of The Shallows is a film where Blake Lively sits on a rock with a seagull hiding from a pissed off shark it is a hell of a lot better than it has any right to be. Will it go down as a classic? Of course not, but if you are looking for something a bit different in among the summer blockbusters, then you could do a whole lot worse than getting your teeth into this.