Genre: Survival, Thriller
Runtime: 86 minutes
Main Cast: Blake Lively
Production Companies: Ombra Films
Weimaraner Republic Pictures
Written by: Anthony Jaswinski
Directed by: Jaume Collet-Serra
Written by Nelson Cumming
The Shallows was a lot better than I thought it was going to be. I thought it would be a Sharknado-like exploitation film. I was glad to have been proven wrong. It succeeds in what it aims to do which is to make a 90-minute summer thriller (I know it’s winter but it’s summer in America). Structurally, it follows in the same vein as 127 hours but location wise, it follows Cast Away.
Brie Lively plays Nancy Adams, a girl who goes out on an exotic but secretive beach (the natives don’t even reveal the name of the beach) and while surfing, she gets attacked by a shark but clambers on a rock to safety. She is about 200 meters away from the shore, but there is one thing that’s stopping her: A deadly shark.
Lively is the black swan of acting. She struggles to do the simple things like talking without sounding dumb. When she has to act all by herself while being entertaining for 80 minutes straight, she can do that no problem. This astounds me as she is entertaining on her own, which only veteran actors can do, yet speaks like it’s her first week of acting. She is great because the movie’s success largely rests on her and she easily clears that hurdle but I hope her agent doesn’t her in Shakespeare adaptations!
The main problem is that The Shallows is slow to get going. The first 10 minutes is the worst part of the movie by a country mile. There are ridiculous amounts of product placement (Vaio, Ripcurl, Converse and Banaba Boat to name a few) the subplot is too vague and there is not much detail in it for me to care. There are also so many slow-mo shots of her in a two-piece that I was thinking “Ok I get it, she’s hot, get on with it. Don’t do a Michael Bay”
After the ten minute mark she goes out into the sea and with the beautiful cinematography of the waves rising and crashing under great lighting, I thought “Whoa, never expected some arthouse stuff here, how ambitious” Then when she gets bitten by the shark by the 15 minute mark and the clear blue sea turns into blood-red I thought “This is awesome, I didn’t think the director would show her bleeding so profusely”
The Shallows also has the gift of understanding suspense and the viscera. For suspense, they know the suspense is not what happens but what you fear is going to happen. In this case, The Shallows uses great techniques to build it up. It leaves you with a tense feeling. The viscera, on the other hand, makes you feel like you are experiencing the physical pain. One scene she falls hard onto sharp coral and another she is stung by jellyfish. Both made me clench my fists and cringe while imagining the pain which was good.
The other thing I commend is the short running time. This was to the Shallows benefit. It felt breezy, quick and consistently entertaining from start to finish. It is only 86 minutes long including credits. I felt the brevity of that, but I didn’t feel it ended too quickly either.
The Shallows, as I have said before, was way better than what I thought it would be, with beautiful cinematography, acting, and suspense. I thought Kubo and the Two Strings would be a shoo-in for the best new release this month, now I am not sure. I will know when I see it shortly. If Kubo beats or comes close to The Shallows, it will be a great week at the multiplex. ***3/4.