Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra
Starring Blake Lively, Oscar Jaenada, Sully “Steven” Seagull
Released June 24th, 2016
Director Jaume Collet-Serra is a master at pacing. This is a tough element of filmmaking to master, and Collet-Serra has proven throughout his career that he knows how to work with his editors to make his films lean and taut.
Such is the case with The Shallows, one of those films you can sum up in one sentence: “Stranded Surfer Girl Fights Off Shark In Quest To Return To Land.” Movies with such a simple premise are often highly enjoyable, and The Shallows works as a summertime crowd-pleaser.
Lively brings steely determination to Nancy, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they make her a John McClane type in future films.
When we meet Nancy Adams (Blake Lively) she’s riding shotgun with Carlos (Oscar Jaenada), a local taking her to a secluded beach in Mexico. Nancy is visiting this beach in memory of her mother who has recently passed away. You see, Nancy’s mother visited this same, nameless beach when she was pregnant with Nancy.
Nancy surfs and FaceTimes her younger sister and father as we learn she may not pursue her medical degree since she feels listless since her mother’s passing. Do we need this backstory? Does it help us care more for Nancy later, as she’s being attacked by a shark? No. We do not need this backstory. It’s ham-fisted at best.
Lively brings steely determination to Nancy, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they make her a John McClane type in future films. I’m serious. Let’s bring this character back and see how she stacks up to other threats of the wild! In every moment she’s capable, in control, and calm. Well, as calm as you can be when you’re stranded on a rock in the sea and the tide is coming in and there’s a shark out to get you.
I would love to see a film that has a different shark as the villain (Tiger? Mako? Thresher? Hammerhead?) but of course this one is a Great White Shark, and of course it doesn’t behave at all like an actual shark would. Audiences won’t care about this, as Collet-Serra digs into our primal fears and treats the shark more like a demonic force than a fish.
The most memorable character in the entire film is a seagull. Steven Seagull, to be exact. This is a real gull (named Sully) who shows more charisma on screen than most humans this year. If Lively’s Nancy gets another film, I hope she’s reunited with Steven Seagull.
As entertaining as it can be at times, I found myself rolling my eyes at The Shallows more than being thrilled with the proceedings. Marco Beltrami’s score is utterly confounding. I’m not sure what vibe he was trying to go for, but it doesn’t mesh with the film at all. With an over-the-top finale, a silly CGI shark, and no real story to speak of, The Shallows is ultimately …wait for it…shallow.