THE human body can endure much more than what we give it credit for, and with steely determination coupled with the right mindset, nothing is impossible. That seems to be the message of Jaume Collet-Serra’s latest survival movie, The Shallows.
The 86-minute thriller is set in a lagoon in Mexico although the film was actually shot almost entirely in New South Wales, Australia. It is about a surfer who is stranded at sea after a shark attack. By sheer determination and brainpower, she outsmarts the shark and lives to tell the tale.
Blake Lively (Green Lantern and The Age Of Adaline), plays Nancy, a medical school dropout, who is bitten by a shark while trying to catch the last surf at the beach. With its white sands, turquoise water and swaying fronds, the beach was a favourite of her mother’s, who had recently died of cancer.
Losing her mother was a painful experience for Nancy and she makes the decision to re-connect with the latter by visiting little snippets of memories of her. The beach is one of them.
Just like what her mother once told her, the beach is a perfect paradise. But what lies beyond is something else. While surfing, Nancy is knocked off her surfboard and bitten by the shark. The encounter leaves her with a nasty wound on the leg. Fighting for survival, she ignores the pain and swims towards a small rock where she seeks refuge.
The outcome of the situation is anything but predictable. Nancy tries to warn other surfers who are oblivious to the shark’s presence, to no avail.
A seagull also barely escapes the jaws of the shark, and like Nancy, takes refuge on the rock. Over the few next hours, the bird, which she names Steven, becomes her only companion.
Despite being a one-woman show, The Shallows has its pull. Most of the intense moments are when Lively is in the water, as the shark circles around her.
The film overall is well-executed and tense throughout. Composer Marco Beltrami’s score adds suspense, like what John Williams did for Steven Spielberg’s Jaws.
Credit is also due to cinematographer Flavio Labiano (Non-Stop and Dance With The Devil) for his gorgeous and wide angle lensing of the hidden cove. Sadly, this modern homage to Spielberg’s Jaws is a little unconvincing when it comes to the actual shark. For the most part, it looks like nothing more than a cheap CGI rendition.
What’s done right here though is the establishing shot of the shark itself. The audience is shown a little dorsal fin here and a shadow gliding between the cameras and Nancy’s legs there.
Meanwhile, the effects of the choppy sea (filmed in a water tank) are quite realistic.
Lively’s good physique may be one of the reasons the Los Angeles-born actress was chosen for the role. However, she proves to be a compelling heroine. Instead of wallowing in self-pity, Nancy refuses to surrender to fate, and seeks a way to survive. Her character reminds viewers that there’s always a solution to a problem, even if one has to work really hard to find it.
Lively’s focused performance is the reason why The Shallows works, even if this is just purely fictional entertainment. There are a few editing misses here and there but that shouldn’t mar your overall viewing experience. After all, it’s the survival tale that we’re sinking our teeth into.
NOW SHOWING THE SHALLOWS
Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra
Starring Blake Lively, Oscar Jaenada, Angelo Josue Lozano Corzo, Jose Manuel Trujillo Salas
Duration 86 minutes