Nancy is on a quest to find a remote Mexican beach her mom surfed at before Nancy was born. After finding this tropical paradise she enjoys catching a few waves. Little does Nancy know there is a great white shark stalking her just below the surface. The shark attacks, leaving Nancy’s leg badly injured. Luckily she managed to get to a small rock island. Nancy must fight for her life and find a way to get to the beach that is so close, yet it might as well be miles away.
Going into this film I did not have high expectations. The first teaser trailer looked like the film would be quite a thriller, but when the full trailer came out I was unimpressed by the CGI shark leaping out of the water. I’m pleased to report that The Shallows was actually a fun, intense film. Considering this is a rather short film that takes place in the span of roughly 24 hours, the filmmakers laid out the plot in a way that allowed them to maximize the impact of events. Of course the story is rather basic (girl gets attacked by shark, girl tries to outsmart the shark, lots of bad things happen in the process), but it is still fun and exciting to watch. They even managed to fit in a bit of backstory, but they did it while other events were occurring. This makes you more invested in whether Nancy lives or dies without overdoing it with flashbacks and extra fluff that isn’t necessary. The filmmakers also did an excellent job of lulling the audience into a feeling almost like safety before a flurry of intense action. You would watch the film and be focusing on something Nancy was focusing on. That is when you least expect something to pop out and scare you, so of course that is exactly what happens.
Taking into consideration this is a PG-13 film, there were a couple scenes that were fairly graphic. After Nancy gets attacked by the great white, her thigh is badly wounded. She essentially has a flap of skin and muscle that is loose on her leg. Not only was it a bit hard to look at, but it was also an incredibly realistic looking practical effect. Since Nancy is at least partially in the water at all times her wound is also bleeding to some degree throughout the entire film. Another scene that was more graphic than I expected involved another victim of the shark. While the attack itself is strategically kept off screen, you still get to see the aftermath. Let’s just say it is some rather gruesome carnage.
The shark itself was of course done in CGI. While I tend to be repelled by the use of CGI in horror films, there was really no way around it in a film like this. For the most part the audience is only shown the shadow of the shark or it’s dorsal fin. There are only a few key scenes where you see the shark in all its computer generated glory. The CGI isn’t amazing, but it is passable enough that it doesn’t feel like you’re watching a made for TV Syfy channel movie.
As far as the acting in this film, there is really only one person to discuss. Obviously the main character, Nancy, was played by Blake Lively (Age of Adeline, Green Lantern). Blake Lively isn’t what you would call an amazing actress, but she is good enough that you enjoy watching her.Lively is someone who has the look of a stereotypical surfer girl, which makes it more believable for the audience. Casting her was also a wise decision by the filmmakers as she will draw in more of the younger audience they want with the PG-13 rating. While this character isn’t necessarily a true actor, I have to mention the amazing Sully “Steven” Seagull. This was a live animal actor who remained by Lively’s side through a majority of the film. The Shallows was Seagull’s first major motion picture role.
The Shallows isn’t quite at Jaws status, but it is a refreshingly well done and exciting shark flick in a sea of low budget drivel. I can honestly say that it is the best shark horror film I have seen in at least the last decade. My hope is that this will be a trend taking us away from the likes of Sharknado and more towards the thrilling shark films of the past that actually made you fear what was in the dark depths. Keep in mind that if you go in expecting to see Jaws or something that is gore galore, you will be disappointed. This is a film that is fun and exciting, but know that it is a PG-13 film. It is a thrill ride that is light enough for people of many ages to enjoy.
OVERALL RATING: 7/10