Monday, July 11, 2016

The Shallows (2016)

The Shallows comes with a bunch of obvious debts, most obviously to Jaws but also to more recent movies such as The Descent or 127 Hours. Blake Lively is Nancy, who has arrived at a personal crisis, dropped out of medical school, and journeyed to the isolated beach in Mexico where she was conceived. Her mother is dead of a long slow disease, which is also probably what set Nancy's crisis in motion. At any rate, she's also a surfer and soon takes to the waves. These early scenes are spectacular, fun, and kinetic, like all good surfing footage. But then a darned shark shows up—a great white, no less—and that's it for the good times. Nancy finds herself with a serious flesh wound that keeps bleeding, stuck on a rock 200 feet from the shore, and with the shark circling her. I expected to be bored with this and went looking for jokes to make fun with, but it's actually pretty good for what it is. Director Jaume Collet-Serra and screenwriter Anthony Jaswinski make it more of a classic man vs. nature adventure / survival story than the kind of raw phobia yarns in the vein of horror that Jaws spawned. Not that The Shallows doesn't have its moments of shock cuts and gore. This is a carnivore we're talking about. And, yes, in this story of buoys and gulls, there are points beyond credulity for me, toward the climax. Mostly it stays on track and offers up a pretty good ride. One winning point always is brevity, and this one comes in under 90 minutes. A lot of things can be more fun at that size. I have read complaints about white women who live and Mexicans who die, and it's true that's an unfortunate aspect of this story. Ultimately I think it all works together as a tidy clockwork thriller that's usually not overreaching itself. All the parts fit together nicely. The backstory is cheesy—dead mother, cancer, etc.—but also serves to raise the sympathy quickly and keep things moving. There's even a funnee aminal, a seagull, who is probably the most likable character of all. More cheese, of course, but I have to say, fully expecting otherwise, that I spent an hour and a half caring quite a bit about this skilled woman surfer and that bird, stranded on a rock.


  1. I thought the trailer for this looked terrible, but I ended up enjoying it the film way more than I expected to.

    - Zach

  2. I haven't got past the terrible looking trailer but you make it sound like a good popcorn movie.