The Shallows- Film Review
The Shallows, a movie directed by Jaume-Collet-Serra revolves around a gripping woman-against-nature tale with tough, determined Nancy (Blake Lively) facing her own infirmities, a hostile environment, and a hungry great white shark.
The movie starts somewhat awkwardly as large blocks of text pop up on the screen showing Nancy texting her best friend who is nursing a hangover back at the hotel. In a sense, the texting is intrusive and annoying. It sort of takes away the real life feel of the movie. Fortunately, the director dropped this gimmick for the rest, and the film reverts to an excellent, nail-biting plot in which an unsuspected tourist is threatened by the worst nature has to offer.
The plot orbits around the Texas-bred surfer and med-school dropout Nancy who arrives at the secluded Mexican paradise where her mother, a recent victim of cancer, once frolicked. There she hopes to connect with something other than her grief.
After video chatting with her father and sister (Brett Cullen and Sedona Legge), she paddles out to join a couple of local surfers. Then when she decides to stay for one last wave on her own, she inadvertently swims into the feeding ground of a shark. The movie creates great suspense, with dread filled music in the background and shadowy movements in the water, and lots of slow motion scenes, Nancy is yanked out of her reverie by a huge leg chomp.
She survives the initial encounter and makes it to a small rocky islet where she uses her skills as a medical student to close the wound. As darkness falls, she realizes she is in a race against time – when high tide arrives (again) in about 12 hours, her island will be under water and there will be nothing to prevent the shark from turning her into breakfast. To make matters worse, several would-be rescuers become appetizers for the shark as they attempt to swim out to Nancy’s rock.
Nancy gets an inspiring jolt as lead character from Lively’s confidence to portray this type of individual. She bring both body and soul, with a sense of pop empowerment to the forlorn stranded surfer, even if realism starts slipping away in the final stretches.
It is difficult for any film to follow a lone character for the better part of 90 minutes. The Shallows follows their lead by getting into the character’s psyche. For Nancy, this situation is especially frustrating – she can see safety. She’s close enough that she can call out to the few passers-by on the beach. But she’s also in pain, suffering from blood loss and dehydration, and doomed if she leaves her perch. The shark is like Jaws – huge, powerful, and relentless. Like Tom Hanks in Cast Away, she needs something to talk to. In this case, it’s an injured sea gull also stranded on the rock due to injury. The movie gets frustrating at times due to its over-use of slow motion scenes of waves crashing and the sun splintering overhead. We get it, the island is a beautiful place.
The characterization however, is good as Lively does convince the viewer that she is in true peril. The directing, editing and cinematography is great as well, as everything merges in, without any awkward scenes or glitches after the annoying texting intro.
However, in the beginning of the film Nancy asks what the island is called. No one answers her question and the name of the island is never revealed. This left me scratching my head at the end of the film.
Overall, The Shallows is a great movie and can be equated to classic shark films such as Jaws.