Let’s be honest there’s only ever been one great, and possibly even good, shark movie, and that’s Jaws. Other attempts like the sequels, the Sharknado films, or Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus have just got more and more ridiculous. But now we have The Shallows, a film where Nancy (Blake Lively) is attacked by a great White Shark and stranded about 200 meters from the shore.
Going in I was really concerned that watching Blake Lively trying to survive after the attack, wasn’t going to be able to provide enough entertainment for a full film, as it is a pretty thin premise. But hey, it really works well as film. It is a touch slow at times, especially in the opening where there are a few too many prolonged shots of people surfing. The film is a tight hour and a half, and that’s a good thing. Any longer than that and it would have really started to drag, but director Jaume Collet-Serra made the right choice keeping this short.
Given that she’s on screen for almost the entire time this was a film that was going to live and die on Blake Lively’s performance. And she does a great job. Having only really seen her in Green Lantern, where she wasn’t good, I was really presently surprised by just what a great screen presence she was. Considering that for huge portions of this film there are no other human characters on screen, she has to be a charismatic screen presence, and she really is great in this film.
I really liked how immersive huge parts of this film were, there is some fantastic direction from Collet-Serra, for example the way you are plunged into water. There are a few really beautiful shots as well. But what was most impressive was the way that the film builds tension. Films like Jaws and Jurassic Park have shown that what you don’t see is normally far scarier than what you do see. It’s helped by the fact that this feels very real; it’s an actual struggle to survive. That grounded realism just adds to the tension.
This is lost a little right at the end, where it gets a little unrealistic and ridiculous. This is also the only time we get a really good look at the shark. Whilst it had looked pretty good in small and quick snippets, when it gets to be really prevalent on camera it didn’t look great. Not horrendously bad as in most shark films, but not great either. But that doesn’t stop this from being a good film. But that’s all it is, good. There is nothing to truly elevate it. The Shallows is an entertaining survival film with a shark, and nothing more.
I’ve also got to say that Steven Seagull is my favourite bird mixed with celebrity pun since Courtney Dove and Kurt Coobain in the final season of How I Met Your Mother.