With the release of the much-awaited Finding Dory, it only seems fitting to follow it up with a film that shows the opposite of the beauty of the seven seas. The Shallows is a shark survival thriller starring Blake Lively. The plot revolves around a surfer who is riding waves off the coast of a secluded island. During her surf she is attacked by a giant shark, and the suspense begins. As someone who was terrified by the original Jaws, I was really anticipating this movie's release.
Check out the creepy trailer for The Shallows:
In my mind, I felt like this would be a movie that I would love but would be critically panned. Fortunately, the initial reviews for the film seem to be pretty positive.
The Shallows Is Spine-Tingling And Intense
I, for one, really appreciate a great psychological thriller. Movies like The Purge aren't necessarily scary, but they hit you right in your gut and make you feel the fear. The Shallows seems to strike just such a nerve with critics.
Simon Thompson of IGN explained how The Shallows strikes the perfect balance of fear and intrigue:
it’s a battle of wills and wits between Nancy and her finned nemesis, a battle so tense that at times it is actually hard to look at the screen and is sphincter-spasmingly effective. There is one particular thing that happens off screen that, because you don’t see it happening, makes the pay off so much more effective.
One of the biggest compliments the film is getting is how well it scares you with stuff you don't see on screen. Yvonne Condes of Common Sense Media explained:
There are quite a few terrifying shots of people being grabbed by sharks, but the scariest is what you don't see: i.e. a surfer being pulled in from under the water and not coming back up (and then there's Lively's face while it's all happening). It's only 87 minutes long, but you'll be holding your breath for much of that time.
Blake Lively Does A Great Job
Going against the stereotypical horror-movie survivor trope, Lively's character is very smart and determined. Rebecca Murray of Showbiz Junkies went into detail about the believable survival of Lively's character:
Also working in The Shallows’ favor is a gutsy performance by Blake Lively. She carries the entire film and is in 99% of the scenes, and she’s completely convincing as a surfer who finds herself in a life-or-death struggle with a Great White. You root for Nancy and, unlike most action films, seldom do you want to yell at her for the choices she’s making while trying to stay alive.
It's great to hear we're getting an intelligent survivor in a horror, and that's definitely something for viewers to look forward to. Matt Zoller Seitz of RogerEbert.com praised Lively's performance in what is essentially a one-woman show:
Lively is superb here, giving one of those hyper-focused, action-lead performances that's as much an athletic feat as an aesthetic one. There are a handful of supporting characters, most of whom end up as shark bait, but in the end, "The Shallows" is a one-woman show that puts Lively on a jagged rocky pedestal and worships her.
The Beach Is As Gorgeous As The Shark Is Terrifying
Beyond anything, great visuals can really carry a film, and when you have a beast such as this giant shark in a beautiful seascape, it can make the viewing experience somewhat disconcerting. Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times explained how beautiful this film can be at times:
Filmed in New South Wales, Australia, “The Shallows” is a great-looking film, peppered with overhead long shots of the amazingly clear water, and some terrific underwater photography as well.
The Shallows' breathtaking cinematography seems to impart that contradiction: The most beautiful island in the world is home to one of the deadliest creatures in the world. Peter Debruge from Variety explained what made this so gorgeous:
It’s a beautiful cove, and [director Jaume] Collet-Serra and his camera crew (including surf d.p. Dwayne Fetch) lavish us with a gorgeous (if somewhat abstractly cut together) hang-10 montage featuring nice moves by Nancy and two unnamed Mexican surfers (one of whom wears his head-mounted GoPro camera straight into the shark’s mouth — a teaser offered as the movie’s half-effective opening thrill).
The Shallows Is A Beautiful Thrill Ride
The critics have been very fair to The Shallows. With a 74 percent approval rating so far on Rotten Tomatoes, it isn't a perfect film, but is definitely an enjoyable one. Will it overtake Jaws as the king of shark horror movies? Probably not, but it is the shark thriller we have been waiting for since the mockingly bad Sharknado. For awesome and suspenseful frights, The Shallows definitely looks like a film we should all go and see. Gregory Wakeman of CinenaBlend summed it up best:
While hardly reinventing the wheel (you'll need to forgive a hefty dose of dramatic license and cheese to embrace its conclusion), The Shallows delivers the requisite thrills. And with a running time of just 87 minutes, it's a concise blast of summer cinematic fun that'll chill, shock, and keep you thoroughly entertained.