The Shallows : Jaume Collet-Serra’s fishy thriller finally hit UK cinemas almost two months after America’s 21st June release date. For those in the dark – or rather, the deep end – The Shallows follows former medical student Nancy as she attempts to find her recently passed mother’s ‘Secret Beach.’ Oh, and there’s a shark.
Mrs. Ryan Reynolds: The star of the show is certainly Blake Lively’s Nancy who dominates the majority of screen time and acts all the other supporting cast under the table. She is able to convey a solid and believable performance plus can still cope with long takes and a demanding environment. This role though is predominantly reactional much like Leo in The Revenant last year. So expect plentiful grunting, wheezing, and moaning. The majority of dialogue appears at the start as exposition or to indicate a progression in insanity as she talks to the shark and co-star Sully ‘Steven’ Seagull. But it is nice to see Blake Lively have a predominant role in a summer movie.
The Pregnant Woman: Most of the filming took place on Lord Howe Island, Australia which is the perfect area to act as a backdrop so the audience is fully immersed. Not only that, but the audience can use the ‘landmarks’ (such as ‘The Pregnant Woman’ Island or the crescent beach) to avoid confusion in location especially during 360-degree shots. The director also has nifty ways of displaying exposition through phone pop-ups like Skype calls or scanning Instagram photos. All of which allow the audience to simultaneously see the screen and the character’s expression rather than a gruelling shot/ reverse shot – a clever tactic to keep things interesting. The lack of CGI for the shark actually works for the films benefit. As a B-movie, smaller funds means the budget has to be stretched so scenes with the shark are sometimes shadowed or hidden creating a menacing creature. Combine this with the unsettling nature of slowly lapping water and you have created a terrifying monster.
A New Generation of Jaws? Without a doubt, this film draws parallels from Jaws – the biggest shark film ever. And if Jaws never came out then The Shallows would be considered one of the best shark films (not that there are many). But The Shallows clearly takes influence from Jaws which doesn’t pack a punch like it did in 1975. Instead, 21st Century measures were taken to rejuvenate the genre like a female protagonist – more frequently being introduced at the present. Plus more freedom with camera movement which wasn’t available forty years prior to this release.
Cheap Thrills. With some slow parts in the middle, the tension still holds up. It’s not the greatest tension ever but able to keep the audience glued to the screen and physically involved – especially during some jump scares. All impressively done on a reasonably scarce budget. The overall plot is pretty weak as Nancy’s intentions are never properly explained but, without going into spoilers, feeds nicely into the final act.