A hot blonde vs. a shark. That’s The Shallows. I should hate this. So why don’t I? Because this summer has been a huge letdown. Every “blockbuster” has either been a sequel, underwhelming, straight-up mediocre, or all of the above. And that’s exactly why this average, unintentionally hilarious suspense/thriller is so entertaining!
The movie follows Nancy (Blake Lively), a med student surfer who travels to a hideaway beach in Mexico in honor of her late surfer mother. Of course, this paradise immediately turns into hell when Nancy crosses paths with an enormous great white shark, who noms the shit out of her thigh. Being a med student (See, this was an important detail that’s definitely not plot armor), Nancy manages to fashion a tourniquet and suture her wounds with the jewelry she’s wearing (because swimming with jewelry isn’t a pain in the ass). And the rest of the movie is about escaping the shark.
I know, it sounds dumb. And it kind of is. Nancy MacGyvers her way through the whole movie using whatever items she has on her, including her necklaces, her wetsuit, and the remnants of her surfboard leg rope. Then again, if I were stranded on a rock and going to be eaten by a shark, I’d probably try to save my ass with whatever items I had on me, too (What can you make out of birth control and a hair tie?). And what the hell else is she supposed to do? If she sat on a rock for 90 minutes then got eaten, you’d be like “Well, that sucked.” So don’t think about it too much, and it’s fine.
It’s a decent sleeper hit that Lively manages to carry with her sympathetic performance. From her pained screaming for help to her quiet sobs as she watches a potential rescuer get devoured, she definitely ups the suspense. She’s also able to make you feel as though you were trapped on that damn rock with her. And we have to hand it to her. Sitting on a rock, groaning about a leg, and talking to a seagull shouldn’t be that entertaining, but it works. It helps that “Steven Seagull” is the most adorable castaway sidekick since Wilson. It also helps that Lively’s ass is goddamn glorious.
Even the cinematography and the CGI are pretty spectacular, given the film’s $17 million budget. The beach and the water is just…wow. The shark work is good, too. It moved like a real shark, and it looked like a real shark (Save for a few moments in the climax where the shark almost swims into SyFy waters). Of course, it didn’t act like a real shark because a real shark wouldn’t circle a rock for a straight day just to eat Blake Lively. Nor would it breach in shallow water (That’s not how physics works, guys). Still, a terrifying antagonist. Not as scary as Jaws, but definitely a better-looking shark.
It’s amazing that The Shallows was able to provide a good summer thriller on $17 million when other summer movies on $100-200 million budgets that are supposed to “blow us away” can barely stand up. I guess that’s what happens when the market gets bogged down with bloated sequels. You start to yearn for something different, even if it’s just a hot blonde vs. a shark.
The Shallows: B-
Listen to my review of The Shallows on “Pat & JT in the Morning” here (at 37:32).