Review: The Shallows

There’s still a little time to catch this one in the cinemas, so here’s why it could be worth the trip for you. Blake Lively is Nancy who journeys to a remote beach in memory of her recently passed mother, to enjoy some surfing, only to find herself trapped 200 yards from the shore with no-one in sight, being hunted by a great white shark.

Blake Lively is of course best known for her role in Gossip Girl but she started out in films and has returned to them as of late, with The Age of Adaline and upcoming Woody Allen film Café Society and to put it quite bluntly she’s perfect for this role, whether or not that is a compliment is for your own perception. The strange thing is, she’s most convincing in her moments of pure agony, particularly when tending to her own wounds with a certain necklace that seems to become more of a multi-tool. The other great part to her performance of course is that she’s utterly likeable; Lively, both in real life from her appearances in interviews and press as well as in this film, is entirely charming, she’s smart, funny and most importantly still has a sense of modesty. That modesty doesn’t quite extend to her physical appearance which director Jaume Collet-Sera clearly took full advantage of, with relentless shots that linger a little too long and closely, including some stereotypical angles used on women in films of this genre but praise has to go to Lively for making this film 7 months after she had a baby, that is commitment. The only co-stars realistically are our shark and a seagull, the latter which surprisingly adds more than you’d expect, giving Lively something to act off and helping to augment the connection between the audience and her character, as well as being quite a funny duo during a tense situation.

There will be some however that take issue with the fact that a shark will not hold a grudge or that it will not abandon a big lump of meat for a human with less to offer but I can’t stress enough that it’s a film, abandon all those prejudices and just enjoy, it will be a much better watching experience. The vital element that goes with many of these films is the constant give and take with our protagonist’s sense of hope, it can’t always be abundantly clear they’ll survive, there has to be constant injections of failure to keep audiences on the edge of their seats, and it’s something that’s definitely present here and highly enjoyable at that. As well as that suspense, there’s a great quality to the film of not taking itself too seriously, it’s not meant to be a deep, thoughtful film, it’s a semi-scary, slightly silly but entertaining film about a shark who just won’t leave the poor girl alone and has a hatred of human beings and it acknowledges that and uses it to its advantages. There are a few jump scares which are a great inclusion and work brilliantly in the sense of making you jump but then making you laugh, combining the elements of scare with being a fun film. The use of violence here is a good proportion, it’s not too much and yet it’s not so little as to make the film appear overly unrealistic when it comes to injury. Lastly it’s also a nice addition to use a deep bass in the score of the film, which when viewed in cinemas can really be physically felt and gives that extra emphasis to keep you on the edge of that seat.

This is without doubt one of the best shark films to be made in years, it hits the right tone and adds humour to scare, without making something overly silly or ridiculous; it’s a thoroughly enjoyable watch. It has a great mixture of scare, gore, violence and humour for which both director Collet-Sera and writer Anthony Jaswinski deserve real credit for, it’s no easy task to make a shark film that is worth watching but these two have done a fantastic job.

Verdict: 7/10

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