Weekly Review: The Shallows (2016)

After the loss of her mother, medical student Nancy (Blake Lively) seeks solace on a secret beach where her mother once surfed. Despite knowing the dangers of surfing alone, Nancy hits the waves. Her dreams turn to nightmares when a Great White shark attacks, leaving her injured, stranded 200 yards from shore, and completely alone.

It’s been a while since I saw a good shark movie in theaters. The trailers for The Shallows seemed really intense, and I knew I wanted to see it. I knew I wanted to see it in theaters preferably, and I’m glad that I did.

The Shallows stars Blake Lively, and it’s directed by Jaume Collet-Serra (who also directed the remake of House of Wax, Orphan, and Run All Night). The film is one where the main actress is pretty much the only actress you see, similar to Gravity. It really depends on the performance of the main actress, and I felt that Blake Lively did a really good job with it. I couldn’t imagine any one else playing the role the way that she did.

I definitely went into this film wanting to see something that was on par with Jaws. At this point, I’m still not really sure where to classify it. Jaws is still a classic, and I don’t think that The Shallows can really compare to that classic, but The Shallows is truly entertaining and terrifying in its own right.

Screen Shot 2016-07-05 at 12.30.35 AM

The scenes with the shark are really intense. I’m not joking. I think I spent the majority of the film leaning forward in my seat, hands clasped in front of my face, eyes wide in horror, and just utterly shocked at how vicious this particular shark really was. Now I’m not a shark expert, but I would assume that sharks aren’t really this aggressive, despite the movie attempting to justify the intensity by saying that Lively’s character swam into its feeding ground.

Whether or not the shark’s behavior is biologically accurate, for the average viewer, it really sets the tone for the type of desperation that the main character must feel. It works well to create the feeling that the main character has to pull out all the stops, think of something completely ingenious, if she ever intends to escape with her life. When you pair this feeling with Jaume Collet-Serra’s directing, it’s a blunt force to be reckoned with.

In addition to the shocking nature of the shark attacks in the film, The Shallows does a decent job of blending comedic and heartwarming moments into the story as well. I really enjoyed one of the opening scenes between Nancy and Carlos, a local man who kindly drives Nancy to the secluded beach. I thought it was a good example of two people communicating through a slight language barrier, and it put a smile on my face a couple of times.

On top of that, there is the background of Nancy’s mother recently passing away from cancer. Nancy has taken a break from medical school and started traveling in order to cope with (or avoid) the feelings she has over the passing, and this plays a key role in her character arc throughout the film. I thought it was a nice touch to her character and how it all tied together.

Plus, Steven Seagull completely stole the show. I’ve seen so many people talking about him, and I had no idea what they meant until I watched the film. I also can’t forget some of the stunning cinematography that really emphasizes the beauty of the location.

The film is pretty short, sitting under 90 minutes. I was slightly worried about that going into it, but it fits the overall story pretty well. I’ve seen some reviews talk about The Shallows negatively, saying that the backstory wasn’t needed and that Lively’s character could have just survived the ordeal without having to overcome family trauma. I can see and understand that criticism, but I thought it worked well so I didn’t personally have any complaints about that.

If I did have some things to complain about it would probably be the presentation of a lot of the social media used in the film. I’ve seen some reviewers call it a “millennial movie” because of it all. I understand incorporating social media into the story, but I don’t feel that it needs to be displayed in such an in-your-face manner as it is in The Shallows. It felt distracting and out of place to me.

Overall, The Shallows has above average reviews. It’s a good summer movie, unsettling and action packed. It doesn’t bring too many new things to the table, but it’s fun. I would recommend it for at least one watch, especially because Blake Lively is so focused in her performance.

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