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OCCASIONAL NOTES ON FILM

I initially dismissed Jaume Collett-Serra’s shark vs woman survival thriller The Shallows as simple, slightly entertaining, disposable B-movie nonsense. Which it definitely is, but flippant comments like that do the director a disservice, as Collett-Serra certainly displays a knack for staging tense sequences above and below water, for the most part. His film only includes one main character, a surfer/medical student named Nancy (played by Blake Lively), and the action is mostly limited to a small, barely-known bay on one of Mexico’s coasts. There’s some back story and a handful of ancillary characters but Nancy’s the only human on screen for most of the film, bonding with an injured seagull, performing gruesome operations on the injuries she sustains and fending off the dedicated attacks of a rather nasty Great White. It’s a short, easy, punchy watch, although it does get a little too silly towards the end: for a while I thought that Collett-Serra’s trick was not showing the shark in full, but eventually he does, and bizarrely it seems to be a lot bigger than the one that menaces Nancy (and various apparently dispensible locals) earlier in the film. I ended up laughing during a scene in which Nancy must negotiate her way through a smack of jellyfish, nearly cheered when the seagull went surfing and rubbed my eyes in mock disbelief at the ‘final battle’, which takes Belief to Beggartown for a weekend break in a five star hotel. There are other, more problematic elements, such as the naff way that the film tries to incorporate text messaging and social media more generally, while Nancy’s back story is tedious and full of clichés, but it’s not really worth over-thinking in all honesty. There’s a place for this kind of stripped-back, intense and simple movie in the multiplex, and though the scope here is far narrower than That Famous Shark Film, The Shallows is better than the majority of tiresomely-knowing but ham-fisted Jaws rip-offs out there. That said, it’s a shame that the seagull doesn’t make a flying, crapping comeback during the epilogue.

Directed by: Jaume Collett-Serra.
Written by: Anthony Jaswinski.
Starring: Blake Lively, Angelo José Lozano, José Manuel Trujillo Salas, Óscar Jaenada.
Cinematography: Flavio Labiano.
Editing: Joel Negron.
Music:
Marco Beltrami.
Certificate:
15.
Running Time:
86 minutes.
Year:
2016.

8 Responses to “The Shallows”

  1. Jason

    I miss this movie in theaters. Some say its good, while others say its bad. I’m curious about it. Might check it out when it gets released later this year.

    Reply
    • Stu

      Yeah, I’ve seen people really hailing it as an excellent example of genre filmmaking, and Collett-Serra is being hailed as some kind of auteur, but I think that’s a bit of a stretch in all honesty. That said it does have some things going for it, like the lean, stripped-back story, as well as some good thrills and gripping sequences.

      Reply
  2. Tom

    Hilarious closing line there Stu. I too wished Steven Seagull had made a triumphant return. I loved that running joke, by the way, that small dose of levity is exactly what a movie like The Shallows needed. Between this and Non-Stop (I think he did that) I think I will keep an eye out for Collette-Serra. His movies don’t make you work hard at all but they’re good bits of fun.

    Reply
    • Stu

      Cheers dude! I wanted that seagull to come back for a bit of target practice on Catalogue Dad especially. I haven’t seen Non-Stop – is it worth a watch? I did see the one he made with Neeson where Neeson forgets who he is or someone takes his identity or something. I can’t remember the name. If only there was a movie database available on the internet!

      I haven’t seen enough to make me want to check out everything he’s made in a hurry, but apparently his first two films are quite good fun – have you seen them?

      Reply
      • Tom

        Non-Stop has a pretty eye-roll-inducing ending but man I tell you, for 3/4s of that runtime I was pretty engaged. It was quite enjoyable and far superior to those stupid Taken sequels.

        I think that movie was called Unknown. (Yeah i know, real creative title huh?)

        And of Collet-Serra’s filmography I’ve seen his latest three (this, Run All Night and Non-Stop). You may get a kick out of RAN as well. Not too bad a picture and anything’s good when you get Ed Harris to be in your film 😉

        Reply
        • Stu

          Unknown sounds about right! I saw Run All Night had Nick Nolte and Ed Harris in…I was going to give that a go but forgot about it in the end. I’ll definitely look out for a couple of the recent ones at home. I don’t mind Neeson as an aging action hero either.

  3. Three Rows Back

    I love me a high concept movie such as this. It harkens back somewhat to the likes of Adrift and that movie where they can’t get back on the boat.

    Reply
    • Stu

      Yeah, it’s fun to check that kind of thing out from time to time. I must say I’ve barely thought about this since, which I guess doesn’t have to be a bad thing!

      Reply

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