There are shark movies, and then there are what appears to be product campaigns disguised as shark movies. Case in point; ‘The Shallows.’ This heavily advertised summer feature starring one of Hollywood’s favorite beach blondes, Blake Lively, may have a handful of suspenseful moments, but they aren’t enough to save this supposed blockbuster-thriller from being anything more than an extended bikini commercial.
For decades, filmmakers have banked on audience’s fear of deep dark waters; from the classic “Jaws” to the 2003 “Open Water,” which was loosely based on a true story. Unlike the latter examples, “The Shallows” stretches reality to the umpteenth degree. And although Lively doesn’t disappoint while carrying an entire film on her shoulders, the level of suspension-of-disbelief to swallow this human vs. shark tale is unattainable.
Nancy Adams (Lively) needed an escape from medical school. Traveling from Texas to Mexico, she finally finds the beach where her mother took a photograph over two decades ago. With a few visual hints and a brief FaceTime conversation with her sister and father, we can surmise that Nancy’s mother recently lost her battle with cancer. Trading her stethoscope in for her surf board, Nancy is determined to catch some great waves during her trip.
Aside from a few chats between Lively and an injured seagull, the dialogue is minimal. Luckily, screenwriter Anthony Jaswinski and director Jaume Collet-Serra (“Non-Stop”) waste no time delivering the shark attack action. GoPro camera gets a nice plug throughout the film as the water-proof footage serves as proof that a gigantic great white is hunting down one surfer after another.
After a successful day of surfing, Nancy chooses to catch one more wave before the sun goes down. Sitting on her board, she can sense something below her. All of a sudden, the great white sinks its teeth into Nancy’s thigh. With blood gushing, she swims to a large rock and finds herself stranded only two hundred yards from shore. But just as determined as she is to survive, the shark is equally committed to having Nancy for dinner. In reality, our leading lady would have bled out on that rock. But the magic of cinema allows her to muster up an unrealistic amount of energy and strength to battle the shark head on.
On a positive a note, the cinematography is glorious. Sweeping shots of crashing waves and sun rays across the crystal clear blue waters transport the audience to paradise. It’s the slo-mo shots of Lively shaking her sun-kissed hair and adjusting her bikini that turns the film into a kind of Victoria’s Secret commercial. And we can’t blame the actress for her runway-model features, but the director could have done without the cleavage close-ups.It’s summertime, so we’re expecting a number of throwaway thrillers to hit theaters. “The Shallows” is certainly one of them. It’s a nice attempt at a story about survival and the will to live, but, at the end of the day, you might as well stay in and stream “Jaws” on Netflix.
By Pamela Price
Runtime: 87 min
Rated PG - 13 for bloody images, intense sequences of peril, and brief strong language