Directed by Juame Collet-Serra. Starring Blake Lively, Oscar Jaenada, Angela Jose, Lozano Corzo, Jose Manual, Trujillo Salas, Brett Cullen, Sedona Legge.
THE PLOT: Having just flunked out of medical school, the footloose and fancy-free Nancy (Lively) is on a spiritual journey, to the secret Mexican beach where her late mum conceived her. Hitching a ride with local Carlos (Jaenada), Nancy can’t even charm the name of this hideaway paradise before she’s suddenly there. Out on the waves, two locals surfing the evening waves, Nancy giving a quick call to her beloved little sis and her disappointed dad before joining them. As they pack up though, Nancy notices the bloody carcass of a whale floating nearby. And then she quickly discovers the cause, as a shark knocks her from her board and bites into her thigh. Managing to scramble to a nearby rock, Nancy’s call to the departing surfers falls on deaf ears. After a little med-student-heal-thyself makeshift surgery, Nancy realises that she’s going to have to come up with a plan if she’ll survive beyond high tide…
THE VERDICT: ‘The Shallows’ is a taut, tight and thrillingly terrifying jolt to the system. Director Jaume Collet-Serra delivers far beyond his pedestrian genre career could have predicted, hitting the right balance between old-fashioned blood spills and attack thrills with the sensual world of someone caught in the eye of a storm that may very much engulf them. Never flashy, modern technology means we can duck above and below the sea, that dark parallel universe below just waiting to pull another holidaymaker through that looking glass.
Lively (known largely for the TV series ‘Gossip Girl’) is well-cast as the ripped Ripley, her tanned and toned body proving well prepared for this battle to the death. Man, after so many recent blockbuster bombs, it’s great to see a small movie that can fill a cinema with enough electrical charge to fry and entire cast and crew of ‘Suicide Squad’.
Review by Paul Byrne

  • filmbuff2011

    Ever since proto-blockbuster Jaws scared audiences out of the water 41 years ago, cinema’s obsession with sharks has remained undimmed. The latest one is one of the best in recent years. The Shallows is a deceptively simple film. It looks like your basic shark attack movie, but peek under the surface and it’s a fully-fledged survival horror film.

    Medical student Nancy (Blake Lively) is on a holiday in Mexico. She’s returning to the beach where her late mother surfed, while Nancy was within her womb. It’s a way of honouring her mother, but also a way of discovering a secret beach known only to the locals. The locals won’t tell her the name of the beach though. Setting out to surf with two locals, she stays a little past her time and is attacked by a great white shark 200 yards from the shore. With a bleeding leg, she initially seeks refuge on a dead whale that was attacked by the shark. But the shark quickly throws her off, so she seeks refuge on a rock that only appears in low tide. Bandaging her wound, she find some friendly company in the form of a seagull with a broken wing, whom she dubs after a well-known film star (one of the film’s few funny moments). As it gets dark, the shark is still out there, smelling her blood and ready to move in for the kill. Nancy will have to find a way out if she’s to stay alive…

    Jaume Collet-Serra, the director of the House Of Wax remake and the criminally under-rated Orphan, returns to the horror genre after a trio of Liam Neeson thrillers. Like James Wan, he’s a director who seems to do his best work in the genre. Don’t mind the lenient 12A rating (it’s a 15 in the UK), as The Shallows has enough dismembering and bloody moments to top even Jaws. The set-up is a swap of the traditional slasher film, with an intelligent, resourceful young woman coming up against a shark rather than a masked killer/dream demon/supernatural creature. The often unseen menace of a shark in the water, revealed as a moving shadow or a fin cutting through the water, can be more terrifying.

    Collet-Serra wisely keeps his shark more of a presence throughout, as the audience wonders when the shark will strike, rather than where. It’s to his and writer Anthony Jaswinski’s credit that much of what happens next is unpredictable. How will Nancy get out of this situation? While there are a few minor supporting players, this is primarily Lively’s show and she’s a smart casting choice – a combination of beauty and brains, while holding your attention throughout.

    Much like her husband’s film Buried, The Shallows is essentially a one-location film that relies on tension, atmosphere and a character that won’t give up until the last, gasping breath. Shot in Australia, the beach itself becomes Nancy’s own open-air prison. Collet-Serra has fun playing with both his leading lady and his shark, which gets some stand-out jump scares. The Shallows is anything but shallow. Tightly edited, thrilling, intense and superior, it gobbles up recent films like the awful Shark Night. ****