I never thought I would ever get to say this but — Move over Jaws, there’s a new badass in town. While your terror still holds the record for most number of kills in Amity Island, this bad boy haunts the shallow waters of Mexico, off the coast of a secret island that refused to reveal its name even after the movie was over and done.
Medical student Nancy (Blake Lively), who is grieving the loss of her mother to illness, finds comfort in revisiting a place where her mom went to when she was pregnant with Nancy. Unfortunately, her friend who was supposed to accompany her to the “secret beach” gets caught up in the island after she met a cute boy so Nancy is left alone to find peace in the beautiful beach and the excellent surf. As the day draws to a close however, Nancy finds herself alone and injured after a shark attack, as she unwittingly enters its feeding ground. Armed only with her wits and the necklace that belonged to her mom , she must find a way to survive her ordeal to see her family again.
On paper, the plot looks like a composite of plenty of other horror movies, careless/overconfident American travels alone to unknown location and finds himself/herself in serious trouble resulting in a number of dead bodies. Surprisingly, director Jaume Collet-Serra (House of Wax, Orphan) was able to work with this recycled plot and turn it on its tail (pun intended) to come out with something, that is, if not original, interesting and very watchable.
One word to describe this entire movie — intense.
The film actually draws the audience in stages. The beginning was more towards the establishment of Nancy’s character and what type of baggage she had in wanting to reconnect with her mom. The first few minutes were all about establishing the beautiful cinematography, some super cool surfing shots and getting various angles of Blake Lively’s banging bod, post baby (Yes ladies, you will hate yourself after watching her own that bikini, even with that major sharkbite on her leg). You have to hand it to her, she really has the goods to flaunt it.
The second stage is the survival mode, after Nancy is cornered by the shark, who patiently circles her day and night for his meal. The graphic detail in which the movie depicts her injuries is a horror in itself. You feel Nancy’s each and every attempt to treat herself from the shark bite — it was not a pretty sight. You feel how hurt the whale was, you feel each succeeding injury Nancy had to sustain to get a better chance to make it out alive. You feel each frustration at each failure and the sheer hopelessness of seeing others fall prey to her nemesis. It was mind boggling.
The third stage is the make it or break it mode , where she she risks all to survive. This part was pretty painful but very very badass. It seemed at this stage that both Nancy and the shark hit their boiling point and were itching to have it out (The shark had the advantage. Those teeth alone are scary) . Audiences feel the shark’s sheer determination to get her and at the same time feel Nancy’s fire as she grasps as anything and everything to win over her sharp finned foe. The thriller and suspense was palpalable with every second.
I have to hand it over to Blake Lively for portraying a character with such fierceness. My complaint with Blake’s earlier portrayals was her lack of spark and animation but she more than made up for that in this role, as she gave life to a woman who is trapped in an almost hopeless ordeal, and yet finds it in her heart to try to help and save others. Another bright spot in the movie was Steven Seagull. He was such a cute little guy. I would never have forgiven filmmakers if they let him die.
While the ending was a bit over the top and the dramatic moment seemed to take away from Nancy’s major accomplishment, it was forgivable because the overall impact of the film was enough to strike fear in the hearts of any adventurer about heading off anywhere alone and unprepared.
All in all, The Shallows was an intense and interesting thriller from start to finish that had excellent pacing, cinematography and a laudable lead star, sidekick and a very determined nemesis. Great work, Team Shallows! And to think that all of this was accomplished within a $17 million budget.