The Shallows: In Honor of Shark Week

The Shallows (2016)

Director – Jaume Collet-Serra

Writers – Anthony Jaswinksi

Starring – Blake Lively

Rating – PG – 13

Genre –Thriller

Metascore – 58/10

Rotten Tomatoes – 74%

When I walked into The Shallows, I fully expected a lame, laughable movie that was one part Jaws, one part Baywatch. Instead,I got something different. It was more like one part Jaws and two parts 127 hours, which ends up being much more enjoyable. Jaume Collet-Serra, along with cinematographer Flavio Martinez Labiano deliver a gorgeous visage while Blake Lively gives a surprisingly believable and dramatic performance within a script that’s run aground. 

The Shallows focuses on Nancy (Blake Lively), a surfer attacked by a shark while surfing, leaving her badly injured and left stranded on a reef 200 yards away from shore. The entirety of the film takes place in a secluded mexican cove, however, for such a compact, small arena , Serra and Labiano capture the vast isolation Nancy feels throughout the film through wide, top-down shots that illustrate how far 200 yards can be. Far and away the cinematography sores above the rest of the tale. Frames alternate between wide panoramic shots, showing us how alone Nancy is, and tight angles that ratchet up the suspense and danger, making them imminent and real.



Another high point is Blake Lively’s performance. Though half of her lines are grunts and screams while the other half are largely unnecessary exposition. her action driven performance felt believable and real. Where I expected to see a damsel in distress stranded in a bikini, Lively and Serra present a character who is resourceful and brave. She makes decisions and reacts in a way that you feel you would as well. This helps to create a truly suspenseful experience that held my attention for the whole 90 minute run time.

While Lively’s behavior is quite believable, often her reactions are the only believable thing. The story plays out largely like deus ex machina in reverse; everything that can go wrong inevitably does. I lost count of how many times I mouthed “you have got to be kidding” under my breath. Misfortune after misfortune befalls Nancy, and we begin to wonder whether it’s Nancy vs. Shark or Nancy vs. Universe. In the same vein, it’s easy to wonder how long a shark would hang around to kill one surfer, especially after having quite a few snacks.




The film also struggles with maintaining a consistent tone, as it moves fairly quick; ultra-bright and sunny to a grim, nearly monochromatic color scheme. Regrettably, the one heartfelt conversation in the film is ruined by a gimmicky floating video chat and the moments of really well-built tension are undone by false jump scares. These elements provide us a disjointed 90 minutes..

The Shallows succeeds in giving us a thrilling and suspenseful ride that makes excellent use of cinematography to add to the tension. Lively presents a believable performance, even when the story is a little unbelievable, and she makes us root for her. In an ocean of reboots and sequels, The Shallows may rise above the tide as an original, entertaining B movie that’s worth the ticket price.

Author : Josh Johnson

499 rating – 7.5 / 10


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