By Jack Dignan
Jaws is one of the most iconic movies of all time, and for good reason. Not only is it the most famous shark movie of all time, but it was also the start of Hollywood blockbusters. In the years since, there's been many attempts to make a solid shark thriller, and most of them end up being just as good as Sharknado. I did not have high expectations for The Shallows. The second trailer that got released kinda killed it for me a little bit. But, over 40 years after the release of Jaws, here we are with The Shallows, a film that works a lot better than I imagined it would.
We follow the story of Nancy (Blake Lively), who recently dropped out of medical school and has travelled all the way to the mysterious, well hidden and unnamed beach her mother went to when she found out she was pregnant. While surfing at this beach, Nancy is attacked by a Great White Shark, and she's forced onto a rock for safety. With just 200 feet between her and the shore, surviving should be an easy task... except for the fact that the shark isn't giving up anytime soon. It's a game of survival, and with very little options of what to do, winning this game isn't looking very likely.
Director Jaume Collet-Serra, the man who brought us Run All Night and Non-Stop, has managed to successfully create a suspense driven thriller that's both terrifying and a tonne of fun, not to mention super well directed. I am not a surfer, and while I know this film is far from realistic and a shark would never actually do the things it does, I'm definitely not going to give surfing a try anytime soon. Scary, uneasy and at times, even difficult to watch, The Shallows uses a fairly basic blueprint when it comes to plot, but it uses this blueprint effectively, and my heart was racing.
For the most part, this film is just Blake Lively alone on a rock, along with an adorable show-stealing seagull who I had a bigger emotional investment in. But aside from that extremely loveable bird, and the uh killer shark, it's really just her. She has to carry this entire movie, and that's a big task. She's not going to be winning any Oscars for her role, but in my opinion, she did a solid job. She's a strong character with a handy set of skills (she'd totally be dead if she hadn't gone to med school) and Lively really sells her.
It gets off to a solid start, and even manages to draw out the suspense all throughout the second act, but the third act is when things begin to fall apart. It's this third act where, not only does the CGI significantly drop in quality, but a great deal of the suspense washes away, replaced with an action heavy finale that ends on an extremely ridiculous, laugh out loud hilarious moment that's both awful and amazing. The entire audience burst into applause when this one event happened, and while it's not all that scary, it was pretty cool. Over the top and stupid, sure, but pretty damn cool, too.
To sum up, The Shallows is a well directed and incredibly suspenseful thriller that's both tense and difficult to watch. Blake Lively gives one of her best performances to date, and while the third act does get a bit ridiculous, it doesn't take away from the effectiveness of the rest of the film.
3 1/2 Stars