The Shallows, starring Blake Lively, a seagull, and a Shark, is a patiently paced thriller. It sucks you in with a cold open, the landscape is breath taking, and the camera work is strong. The movie tells you where it is going right out of the gate so the tension immediately starts to build, and while it’s slow paced, it’s even in that regard and it has lots of room between action moments to let the viewer (and Livelys character Nancy) catch their breathe.
Ya see, Nancy is just trying to get away from it all. She is in search of some alone time. The shark in this movie does everything but utter the words ‘be careful what you wish for’.
The plot synopsis is really straight forward. Nancy was in medical school, and it’s clear she is wicked smart and on the road to doing great things. Then her mom dies of cancer and she leaves it all behind to find the hidden beach where her mom surfed when she was her age. She finds it, she surfs, she gets attacked by a shark and is forced to survive on a small rock while the sun beats down and the shark circles.
Cast Away meets Jaws meets Open Water. There is even a Wilson stand in character in the form of a seagull.
Up until the last 15 minutes this film works as both a straight forward thriller, and also as an interesting allegory for how we struggle when we feel we are alone. I admittedly turned this on as a background watch only to stop what I was doing as I got more and more invested in why was happening.
And then the ending…
I won’t spoil it, but the movie literally jumps the shark from a very believable and terrifying scenario to one where suddenly this massive force of nature is afraid of jellyfish, can chew through metal, has strangely keen tactical skills, and I still don’t understand exactly how to take the final moments. What’s hard is I don’t know how I would have written it differently because in reality, there was no good way out. It was a good premise and tense story, but it just didn’t stick the landing. As such I’m going to give The Shallows a C+. It’s only 88 minutes, so it’s an economical watch, and longer would be too much.