It’s a simple premise: woman v shark, winner takes all. Turn on the Syfy Channel most evenings and you’ll see a frantic male or female antagonist on the run from a lurking predator. Non-Stop director Jaume Collet-Serra’s shark thriller, The Shallows, won’t win any awards for originality, but this Blake Lively-starring popcorn muncher is an exciting watch.
Mourning the death of her recently deceased mother, Pre-Med Nancy (Lively) heads to a mysterious beach in an unnamed country – the same sandy shores her mum once visited. Shrouded in secrecy, even her unofficial taxi-man won’t reveal the name of the near-deserted location. With her anxious father and little sis on the other end of a video call, the medical student reassures her loved ones that all will be swell as she looks to catch some waves in her seemingly tranquil surroundings. Yet in the shallow waters, something deadly lurks…
The intensity Serra builds is never full-throttle, yet it’s consistently teasing. What’s really great about The Shallows, which coincidences with Lively’s understated display, is it bathes in the unknown. We know little about our surroundings, nor do we really crave to; a testament to the well-measured atmosphere that the Unknown helmer and his leading actor created.
Unlike Jaws, it would be difficult to claim that this is not a film about a shark. However, an impressively constructed – and monstrous looking – underwater beast aside (and Steven the Seagull, who must be in contention for Best Supporting Bird…), it really is the Gossip Girl stars’ show. Beginning to blossom as a big screen leading lady, the 28-year-old could easily have suffocated under the cheesiness of the emotional baggage her character was carrying, yet it never defined her.
Unwaveringly effective without being particularly memorable, this shark battle is an enjoyably cinematic outing which delivers on its simple promise: watery thrills.