“The Shallows” was probably the ultimate popcorn flick of 2016. At the end of the day, it is yet another shark movie but it has just been so well made and is so much fun that the whole thing is a joy to sit through.
I have been a big fan of the film's director, Jaume Collet-Serra, from his very first film (the “House of Wax” remake) and I think he is seriously underrated in his talent at telling good stories imaginatively and excitingly. Whilst he will probably never be considered an A-grade director, he is definitely an upper tier B-grade director. He is very good at his craft, and while his collection of Liam Neeson action thrillers are usually a notch above the quality that is usual for those types of films, I think Collet-Serra really excels and shows off his best when he makes horror films. He just seems to get them, and as of now he has made three horror films with “The Shallows” being his latest (the others are the aforementioned “House of Wax”, and the seriously overlooked and creepy “Orphan”). For a film that is basically about a woman on a rock for eighty minutes whilst a shark circles around her, Collet-Serra injects the film with such energy and films the attacks with such bravura that “The Shallows” is so much better than it has any right to be. In fact, it is a really good movie. I personally really liked the fact that it felt realistic (until the final fifteen minutes) and took its time and built up suspense, rather just having the shark attacking regularly and for no reason.
The star of “The Shallows” is Blake Lively and she is stunningly gorgeous. What heterosexual man wouldn't like to watch her in a bikini for eighty minutes?? But besides her beauty, Lively brings a real intelligence to her role as well as both a lightness in the way she enjoys her surfing and down time, and a weightiness to the drama her character goes through when she realises that death is almost a certain reality. Over the years I have thought of Lively to be a lightweight when it comes to acting but her two most recent roles in this and “The Age of Adeline”, she has really impressed me at the way she inhabits her characters now, making them feel like real people. Also her athleticism in the role is stunning as you never question her ability to do the things she does in the film to escape the shark.
Besides Lively, the film also has another little co-star and of course I am talking about Steven Seagull, the seagull. Never have I seen the use of these annoying birds in a film like he is used here, and he is just a total scene stealer and strangely, he is very cute. It is actually a nice touch to the film that I really appreciated. The other animal on display is very obviously the shark tormenting poor Blake. Now if you have read my blog on occasion, you will notice a trend where I complain about bad or badly used CGI. This is the opposite, as the shark is totally rendered in CGI and it looks fantastic. I totally believed that it was in the scene interacting with Lively's character and it was incredibly menacing. While I often think that going practical with effects is better for a movie, when they are as well done as the shark in “The Shallows”, you have to give credit where credit is due and commend them on the success.
Whilst the film is quite realistic for most of its running time, I will admit that it gets a little silly towards the end, but in a way, this is inevitable. There was a moment involving jellyfish that I wasn't a fan of and the way the shark is disposed of almost borders on the comical but the big moment I really had a problem with......spoilers......was right at the end of the film because she just HAD to lose that leg, and it just felt wrong and a bit of a cheat that she didn't......end spoiler.
Still these moments didn't take away from how much I enjoyed “The Shallows”; its a hugely fun film, well directed and acted, beautifully shot and it is also quite suspenseful. While I actually think the film is better than the norm when it comes to a “guilty pleasure” film, but again, this film is so much better than it had any right to be.