August 2, 2016
Shark movies are a distinct film genre of its own. Of course, Steven Spielberg's "Jaws" (1975) is a classic against which all other shark movies will be compared with. Its minimalistically suspenseful musical score by John Williams is iconic. Some, like "Deep Blue Sea" (1999) or "Open Water" (2003), were good. But many of them wind up in the "so bad they're good" category, with schlocky titles like "Sharktopus" (2010) or "Jersey Shore Shark Attack" (2012).
When I saw the first teaser of "The Shallows" earlier this year, it surprised me that they are releasing another shark film, a serious one this time. The beach scenery and Blake Lively are looking mighty fine. When they showed the full trailer in the past month, I was concerned that they might have already given the whole story away. Anyhow, because of very good advanced word about the film, I still decided to give it a go.
Nancy Adams dropped out of med school in frustration following a family tragedy. She visits a beautiful secret unnamed beach in Mexico to go surfing and chill out from the stresses in her life. By day's end, she was left alone in the open water trapped on a rock with an injured seagull to keep her company. An angry great white shark kept swimming in circles around her rock, hellbent on having her for dinner. Can she survive?
As much as this was a shark film, this was also a solo survival film in the vein of "Cast Away" (with Tom Hanks) or "All is Lost" (with Robert Redford). This film is practically a one-woman show for actress Blake Lively, who gives a remarkable performance in a role both physically and emotionally exhausting. With only the orange string bikini and rash guard she had on, Lively was able to toe that balance between helplessness and resourcefulness with credibility and realistic resolve. I liked the way she talks to herself to tell us her thoughts.
Director Jaume Collet-Serra was able to create an atmosphere of relentless action and tension, as he intercuts exhilarating surface shots and treacherous underwater scenes to great effect. The shark special effects were amazingly executed to achieve full-on terror, especially when it was on the attack. The energetically haunting musical score by Marco Beltrami contributed a lot to the suspense and dread of impending danger. "The Shallows" was a lot more than just the shark. It more than fulfilled my expectations for a film of its particular genre. 8/10.