a critiQal film review The Shallows (2016)

Plot: Still reeling from the loss of her mother, medical student Nancy Adams (Lively) travels to a secluded beach for some much-needed sun and solace. Knowing the dangers of surfing alone, Nancy decides to hit the water to find much needed peace. Suddenly, a great white shark attacks, forcing her to swim to a giant rock. Now, stranded 200 yards from shore, the traumatized young woman must fight for her life as the deadly predator circles her.

660 words (Est. Reading Time 3m 18s)

In honor of the theatrical release of the latest shark attack film, The Meg (2018), I decided to go back and watch a shark attack film from recent years. Quickly, I settled on one I had been wanting to see, but never got around to: The Shallows.

So, would the film be worth my time? Or should I have gone for something else instead of The Shallows?

For more than most any other film in recent memory, The Shallows is very much a one star type of film. The rest of the cast is extremely minimal, and shown only briefly. Meanwhile, Blake Lively spends most of the time on-screen, sharing it only with a seagull and, of course, a shark. That gives the viewer a better sense of the loneliness our heroine experiences during the film, and really brings that home in a way a more robust cast could not have.

That also means it’s all up to Blake to make the movie interesting. Thankfully, she does a good job of that. While this is much more of a responsibility than anything she’s done in previous films, Blake steps up to the plate in The Shallows and delivers a gripping performance. Her terror is palpatable, and while their is a a lot of unintentionally funny moments in the film, it’s through no fault of hers. She is the reason the viewer will want to stick around, and not just because she’s a good-looking gal in a skimpy bikini.

As is usual with these shark attack flicks, the plot is a bit thin. She travels to Mexico, fleeing the responsibility of med school, and hits a beach that is special to her family for some surfing. Alone, because her gal pal is off sleeping around (apparently, since she’s never mentioned again). That leaves her all by her lonesome in a foreign country, where anything could happen. And in movies like The Shallows, it usually does.

Sure, it’s a bit thin, but the plot gets her to this secluded beach, alone, and gets her involved in a shark attack, which sets up the rest of the film. As the shore looms just achingly out-of-reach, she has to out-think a shark that is determined to have her for dinner. With Blake doing her best to express herself as much through her eyes as through any dialogue, iThe Shallows is full of taut dangers, with hoped-for freedom always seemingly just out of reach.

That being said, there are a few moments that are rather unintentionally comical. While some of those moments be actually be there on purpose to provide a bit of relief for the drawn-out tension, not all of them can possibly be there for that purpose, and instead are just cheesy sequences of the story. As for the ending, well, it’s as silly as everyone says it is, and let’s leave it at that.

Thankfully, there isn’t a problem with the CGI department in The Shallows. The shark and the violent sequences look to be as realistic as possible. Therefore, the viewer will never be pulled out of the movie by a bad CGI sequence. And that’s a good thing.

With the strong performances of both Blake Lively and the CGI, The Shallows turns out to be a pretty solid shark attack flick. Thanks to the heightened sense that the heroine is truly all alone, the film does a good job of keeping up with its taut thriller premise. Sure, there are a few missteps along the way, and the silly ending leaves a lot to be desired, but overall, Blake’s strong performance and the tense feel of the film help make it to be better than the normal schlock that shark attack movies tend to find themselves drowning in.

Check out The Shallows for yourself, and see if you don’t find yourself engrossed in it…even while you recognize it hasn’t quite shaken the normal cheese that typically accompanies shark attack flicks.

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