Ever since the release of Jaws in 1975, audiences have been afraid to go into the water but have been clamoring for more. Though no shark movie has ever come close to Spielberg’s masterpiece, including the three sequels that followed, it has never stopped anyone from trying. There have been a wide array of shark movies over the years, most of them not very good, from the minimalist thrills of Open Water to the over the top schlock of Sharknado. But one film released this year stand a little taller than most, The Shallows.
After the death of her mother from cancer, Nancy Adams (Blake Lively) has left her life as a medical student behind to suddenly take off to Mexico to surf a beach that was one of her mother’s favorite places. But when she accidentally drifts near a floating whale carcass and into a Great White Shark feeding ground, she finds herself stranded 200 yards from shore and being circled by the shark. With nothing but her stamina and ingenuity, Nancy must beat the odds and find a way back to shore alive.
The Shallows is a wonderfully constructed survival movie that doesn’t overdo the shark element as many films do, instead taking the Jaws route of keeping the actual shark to a minimum and concentrating on the ingenuity of the lead actor to keep the film moving. Blake Lively, whom I was never a big fan of until her excellent performance in The Age of Adaline, is very good here as the headstrong surfer that must use her brains not only to survive but to find a way back to shore. Although the shark scenes are kept to a minimum when they are used they certainly make the best of it with some spectacular shots. The CG work is top notch with some truly terrifying shots of the massive shark that have to be seen. Director Jaume Collet-Serra has a solid filmography of great films that never really became hits. He directed the horror remake House of Wax and the fantastic and criminally underseen Orphan, followed by a trifecta of Liam Neeson films with Unknown, Non-Stop and Run All Night. The Shallows is tense, fast paced, inventive, scary and lots of fun and finally gave Collet-Serra the hit he deserves. Highly recommended.