Classic Review: The Shallows (2016)

Since I’ve started this site, I’ve written a lot of reviews. In case you missed some of my earlier ones, I would like to share an older review of “The Shallows” which originally appeared here.

Still reeling from the loss of her mother, medical student Nancy Adams (Blake Lively) travels to a secluded beach for some much-needed sun and solace. Knowing the dangers of surfing alone, Nancy decides to hit the water to find much needed peace. Suddenly, a great white shark attacks, forcing her to swim to a giant rock. Now, stranded 200 yards from shore, the traumatized young woman must fight for her life as the deadly predator circles her.

When it comes to shark films, there is no topping the Jaws series as it is pretty much set the standard. I guess there kind of also is the Sharknado series but that’s a different thing altogether. Solo films or films that rely heavily or exclusively feature one actor have become a big thing as of late with “All is Lost” and “Locke”, two films I haven’t seen, being most noteworthy. Now here comes a film that combines a mostly solo story featuring a woman overcoming a shark. The trailers looked interesting enough, giving it some horror/thriller vibes.

This is not an overly long film, clocking in at under 90 minutes, which is probably a good thing with this type of story not really being able to sustain too long of a film anyway. The film does not waste the little time it has by going straight away with a woman named Nancy Adams (Lively) heading to the beach to go surfing. The film tries to give Adams a backstory, giving the beach some personal significance to her. The film could have gone without this since it did not add anything to the film or change her predicament in any way. There wasn’t much other story here.

It wouldn’t really be a spoiler by saying that Adams runs into some trouble with a shark. There wasn’t anything too surprising about this with her unknowingly getting herself into this situation. The actual attack itself was surprisingly brutal but there wasn’t a sense of danger until much later on. Until that happened, the film felt rather slow during this time as not much happened. Adams, who is a medical student, was tending to her injuries and also befriending a seagull while more and more time was passing by. It was with this passing of time that made her predicament become more dire. With this came suspense as we were invested in whether or not Adams would actually survive.

When other people started appearing and then disappearing (you can probably figure out how), there was finally a sense of danger as we finally had an idea of what she was dealing with. The film definitely did not shy away with the shark’s viciousness, often only giving us Adams’ reactions to go by (probably due to budget constraints) which were still very effective. Lively was great at portraying the gravity of the situation through her emoting of the horror she was witnessing. This was a dangerous situation for her and this became abundantly clear by then. She had to try to outsmart the shark in order to get back to shore and survive.

This aspect of the film, perhaps unrealistic, was fun to watch as she tried her best to get by the shark. She didn’t always succeed, because she’s human, but she kept on trying. She would also try to motivate herself and also talk to a seagull, which she named Steven Seagull, that spent a lot of time on the rock with her. Her sheer determination was very compelling to watch because of Lively’s performance which was more physical than verbal.

The film did a great job at creating a sense of isolation. Even though she was dealing with only one shark, the shark was still very vicious and she only had the rock to swim to during low tide periods. This added some suspense as well. This was also a very beautiful film to watch with its depiction of the Mexican (Australian) waters and coastline, showing us that they can be both beautiful and ugly. The underwater parts and the shark attacks were very well shot using great angles. The few special effects, including the shark, were well done. The little other acting was not the best here but Lively’s physical performance more than makes up for that.

Overall, this was a decent, beautiful shark film, offering a fair amount of thrills but could have went deeper (pun intended) in a few areas.

Score: 8/10

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