When Jaws was release in 1975, it created a real sense of fear in the beach going public. People were genuinely unnerved by the film, and many beach goers refused to go into the waters. The sequel even poked fun at those people with its classic tag line “Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water”. Since Jaws, there has never really been a film that has had the same wide spread effect. Yes, there have been plenty of shark films, but none of them even came close to eliciting such a strong sense of terror in the wider public. Director Jaume Collet-Serra’s is a serious contender to break this trend, with his intense horror thriller The Shallows, which sees a surfer terrorised by an angry giant shark.
The Shallows is a story about medical student Nancy Adams, who is taking a trip to a secluded Mexican beach, in memory of her recently departed mother. The sun-drenched beach is the perfect place for a spiritual retreat, and a bit of surfing, as she relives moments from her mother’s life. But her idyllic soul searching is torn apart as she finds herself under attack from a vengeful great white shark, who has taken particular interest in the wetsuit clad lass. She is chased onto nearby rocks and finds that she is unable to get to the shore, despite it only being 200 odd yards out. Badly bitten and loosing blood quickly from the wound, Nancy’s trip becomes a desperate bid for survival.
No matter what you think of the film, you cannot argue that it’s beautifully shot, especially the surfing sets wonderfully captured at the start of the film. As the waves roll and crest, I honestly felt like I was watching a holiday destination programme, as the sea and surf splashed and crashed around the screen. It’s an energetic and thrilling scene, set against the deep blues of the sea and sky. You can almost smell the salt in the air. It’s the swift divergent from serene to horrifying, that draws you in. Seriously, sit someone down, don’t tell them what the film is about, and when the shark attacks, they will be out of their seat!
And that kind of brings me to the shark, to which I’m really glad to say, looks bloody amazing. Unlike in Jaws, where you barely saw the toothed villain, The Shallows very own Bruce gets plenty of screen time, as it torments poor stranded Nancy. For a CGI shark, Stockholm-based Important Looking Pirates (ILP) have gone above and beyond in creating this terrifyingly realistic creature. There are few moments, out of the water, that you can tell, but when this beast is swimming around, it’s beautiful.
Shark asides the other main player is Blake Lively who plays Nancy. When you start to think of the simplicity of the film; with the film pretty much being a solo effort for the actress, you realise that the script should have been a fairly straight forward deal, but the film insists on dragging it down with a superficial and silly backstory. No one cares about Nancy’s recently departed mother or imposing father, especially when there’s as huge killer shark jumping out of the water trying to gnaw on her leg. This whole subplot is padding that slows down the start of the film. It’s not until the shark first makes its appearance that film really picks up pace, and her family woes are quickly forgotten by all.
Blake Lively, like many a good scream queen, is best performing when there’s something nasty biting at her heels, and not so much in those other moments. Her wistful stares into the distance are only entertaining for a few minutes before you’re willing the shark to appear. That being said, she does a good job of carrying the film, even if it’s not an Oscar winning performance. Other cast appearances are pretty wooden, especially Nancy’s dad played by Brett Cullen, who’s half-hearted performance is just awful. But it’s off kilter cast fail to knock the film off its course.
The shallows is a heart in your mouth thriller that manages to be a beautiful piece of cinema. Its flaws are easily forgotten as you are pulled into the story thanks to director Collet-Serra . Whilst the cast are mixed bag, It’s the outstanding direction, cinematography and visual effects that really make this film worth watching, and the films last 20 minutes are just brilliant. For your run of the mill shark attack film, The Shallows is by far one of the best ones I’ve seen since Jaws. If I ever needed a new reason not to go in the water, The Shallows would be it.
- Story 75%
- Scares 52%
- Gore 45%
- Music 30%