Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra
Starring Blake Lively, Oscar Jaenada, Brett Cullen
After tearing up the red carpet at Cannes, Blake Lively proves that she has more chops that just her one-off "Gossip Girl" days. Taking a note from the books of recent lonely thrillers, like The Martian and Gravity, Lively pulls the weight in the ocean horror flick The Shallows to full avail. Feeling equal parts action flick and summertime thriller, director Jaume Collet-Serra masters the edge-of-your-seat tension.
Nancy (Lively) is a young, twenty-something on an adventure to find herself after the untimely death of her mother. Inspired by her mom's earlier travels, including a trip to a secluded beach, Nancy ends up on the same beach for a solo surf session. The waves are perfect. The water is crystal clear. After spending a couple of hours enjoying the water with a duo of locals also catching the waves, she chooses to stay out a little longer to take in every ounce of sunshine and good waves while she can. But floating around in the brink of a beautiful sunset is less romantic and introspective than she thought it'd be. A massive shark appears, wreaking havoc on her physically and mentally. Stranded 200 yards from shore with an injured leg, Nancy must muster up the strength and willpower to survive at all costs.
The fated shark thriller is a plot all too familiar. Since the classic Jaws, audiences have been frightened by terrors of the deep, in both brilliant summertime blockbusters and lackluster special effects duds. With this adventure, director Collet-Serra works magic allowing the shark to easily be seen as an enemy, but also relying on slow builds and the fear of the deep water to pull together the ultimate effect.
There are pieces of The Shallows that are a little testy. Before we get into the water, slow motion shots of Lively getting into her wetsuit serve to mainstream the eventual artistic thrill ride. Lively proves pretty quickly that she doesn't need just her incredible beach bod to carry the film. Her talents are nothing at which to scoff. She's only overshadowed by a wounded bird, to whom she bestows a clever name, one of the movie's most memorable moments.
Completed in a quick 87 minutes, the time never feels over-fluffed at all. It jumps right into the terror from the beginning, allowing the backstory to reveal itself only at pivotal moments, but never overshadowing the main story. The fight for survival is the star here and we're never allowed to forget that. The shark is terrifying. And the scares are justly deserved.
This is a totally fun time at the theater and is easily the best shark film since Spielberg's classic. Plus, it's refreshing to see a summertime film that isn't a remake or part of a franchise.
Runtime: 87 min