THE SHALLOWS (2016)
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Jaume Collet-Serra (House Of Wax, Non-Stop) directs this tale of pretty, Texas surfer-girl Nancy Adams (Blake Lively), who is searching for a remote and secluded Mexican beach that her mother once visited. It has sentimental value as her mother is now gone and Nancy locates the beach to spend some soul-searching time there. What Nancy doesn’t know is that a massive great white shark has staked out the bay as a hunting ground and soon Nancy finds herself stranded, alone and wounded as she clings to dear life on a small cluster of rocks. As the sun beats down on her and she slowly bleeds to death, the predator circles her small safe haven waiting for an opportunity to finish it’s meal.
Jaume Collet-Serra directs from Anthony Jaswinski’s script and despite a premise ripe for it, doesn’t really generate much suspense till the last act confrontation between Lively’s surfer and the big fish. Till the buoy set finale, what does keeps us involved is watching Nancy’s tenacious will to live and her ingenuity in trying to keep her bite wound from bleeding out and staying alive in general. Other than that, the film gives us a few victims in the form of some surfer dudes and a drunk local to illustrate that our seafaring predator means business, though the demises are fairly tame and lack impact with adhering to the PG-13 rating. Basically, it’s not until the last ten minutes, or so, that we get the intensity and action we came for. The film isn’t boring or badly directed, but maybe it’s just that the whole shark theme is as played out as zombie apocalypses as to why Collet-Serra really can’t turn up the screws till the final moments. He’s a competent director, but the film seems a little laid back for a movie about a woman fighting for her life against time, the elements and one big ass shark. There are also a few lines of clumsy dialog, as Nancy vocalizes her inner monologue and an annoying use of the new trend of displaying smart phone communication and texts on-screen that thankfully ends quickly once Nancy is separated from her phone. If anything, it’s our leading lady and her portrayal of the gutsy surfer-girl/med student that keeps us with the flick till she and Jaws Jr. go mono-a-mono.
It’s basically a one woman show and Blake Lively carries the flick well on her shapely shoulders. She gives Nancy some nice depth as a woman who is dealing with the loss of her mother and trying to also settle some issues in her own life. She creates a feeling that this place is important to her, which resonates when it becomes a place not of solace, but where death awaits her one way or another. She gives us a tenacious and resourceful woman who refuses to give up and all she has to do is outsmart and overcome one of the most aggressive predators on earth. If Collet-Serra wasn’t completely successful in keeping an atmosphere of intensity, at least his leading lady kept us engaged with a very endearing and strong-willed heroine. A good job by Lively.
Overall the film is moderately entertaining, but is a bit too laid back despite the urgency of it’s premise. Jaume Collet-Serra doesn’t direct badly, though he doesn’t really turn the screws till the last act. What keeps us involved, in a what is now a familiar shark tale, is strong work by Blake Lively, who proves she is more than a pretty face and body as the strong-willed and three dimensional Nancy. The shark FX are just fine and maybe Collet-Serra was paddling upstream with a type of film that has basically lost it’s effectiveness due to dozens of campy shark-themed SYFY flicks and The Asylum’s Sharknado series. After seeing sharks battle David Hasselhoff in space, it is kind of hard to take them seriously again.
2 and 1/2 hungry great whites.