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.
Running Time: 86 minutes.