Everybody has a favorite animal. While one may assume mine is the dachshund — since I have two — anyone who really knows me is more than aware that I have an unabashed love for sharks. From my annual DVR-polluting Shark Week recordings, Jaws being my all-time favorite movie, or my shark-infested bathroom, I love all things shark. Swimming with baby sharks and feeding some big ones at Coral World in St. Thomas, my wife is convinced that getting eaten by a shark would even be my prefered method of biting the big one. With that said, there’s no way I walked into The Shallows not feeling at least a little partial. Did it live up to my shark fanboy expectations? Absolutely!
Dealing with the recent loss of her mother, Nancy Adams (Blake Lively) is on her way to a secluded Mexico beach. The same beach her mother visited after finding out she was pregnant with her. After getting dropped off by the friendly Carlos (Oscar Jaenada), she runs into two local residents and it’s surf’s up, until she’s left alone and gets attacked by a giant great white shark! Stranded on a rock during low tide, her handy medical school training allows her to treat her leg wound while she tries to figure out how to get back to shore. Something the shark isn’t allowing her to do since she’s managed to surf her way into its feeding zone. Now, stranded 200 yards from the beach, fight or flight takes on the ultimate meaning as it’s time to sink or swim.
If there’s one thing The Shallows could be called, it’s guilty pleasure. But thankfully, director Jaume Collet-Serra — best known for schlock/action fare: House of Wax, Orphan, Unknown, Non-Stop, and Run All Night — and screenwriter Anthony Jaswinski keep the film moving at a breakneck pace. While there’s a lot of slow-mo, most of it is used for dramatic effect. Lively is on her own here and holds the film on her shoulders admirably. She may get characterized as Mrs. Deadpool, but Lively gets a real chance to shine here.
Audiences aren’t going for an acting tour de force, we came for the shark. There seems to be a minimum of practical effects, the CGI gets the job done. There may not be a whole lot of gore on screen — one character does get rightly bitten in half — but the girl in a bikini on great white shark action is every bit as intense as you’d hope. And the shark isn’t the only thing standing in her way of survival. There’s also a terrifying sequence involving jellyfish that would feel right at home if anyone ever thought to reimagine Finding Nemo as a horror movie. The Shallows is one of the most fun movies playing in theaters right now and makes a terrific date movie. The jump scares are perfectly timed and Marco Beltrami’s score ratchets up the tension, making sure that no one leaves without gasping for breath at least once. This is a lean, mean fight for survival and is perfectly timed for summer.