Making sharks scary again.
Do you remember the first time you watched Jaws? That lingering fear of ever going back in the sea was a sure thing to follow. No other shark film has managed to have such a massive, worldwide impact on people. Some have tried, such as Open Water and Deep Blue Sea. Sadly, many are intentionally ridiculous; Shark Exorcist, Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus, and of course Sharknado. Then, earlier this year, a hopeful trailer appeared for a mysterious film called The Shallows.
Following the loss of her mother, Nancy (Blake Lively) travels to a secret beach to get away from it all. Hoping to catch a few waves, she gets more than she bargained for when a great white attacks. Stranded and alone, she must work out a way to get back to the shore before the inevitable happens.
What could have easily been a solid, trashy B-movie turned out to be beautifully shot, thrill ride. Filmmaker Jaume Collet-Serra, who previously directed horror-surprise Orphan, kicks us off on a scenic dream – crystal clear water, glimmering sands. We’re then treated to (tasteful) shots of Lively, before she goes surfing.
The surfing isn’t a mere gimmick however. We spend a bit of time watching her ride the waves, in energetic sequences intertwined with suspenseful under-the-water shots, guaranteed to make you tilt your head nervously.
It’s when the shark finally attacks the real thrills arrive. Not since Gravity – which The Shallows mirrors in many elements – have I been so nervous during a film. Like me, you’ll likely spend most of the film with your hands clinched, on your mouth, grabbing your hair etc. The fists will unclinch during cringy, ‘happy-family’ segments, but the thrills outweigh the sentiments.
The shark, rarely seen till the third act, is a believable beast, made more scary by decent CGI and intricate injury detail. But Blake Lively boosts the feature, with a lively (sorry), engaging performance. Embracing the material enthusiastically, we worry intensely for her character, and cheer when she is successful – even if ‘success’ is swimming 15 yards to another rock.
To sum it up…
The Shallows is arguably the best shark film since Jaws. It’s not an Oscar winner, but it’s most definitely memorable. Glorious cinematography and a likeable lead make the relentless, breath-taking nightmare all the better. And I’ll tell you one thing – I’ll be sticking to the pool for a while.
What did you think? Let me know in the comments below, tweet @film_swot, or check out our Facebook page.
Author: Cameron Frew