Title: The Shallows
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Summary: A mere 200 yards from shore, surfer Nancy is attacked by a great white shark, with her short journey to safety becoming the ultimate contest of wills.
I will not apologize for the pun in that headline (thank you to another local critic who let me use it). Ever since Steven Spielberg terrified the world with Jaws in 1975, people have been trying to replicate the ‘killer sea animal’ movie. There have been crazy B movies that range from good, such as Piranha 3D, to very bad, such as Shark Night 3D. There have been multiple sequels to the original, movies such as Orca that is “Jaws with a killer whale,” and other crazy ocean movies. The one I think that captures the terror of sharks and the ocean is Open Water from 2003. There have been so many killer animal movies that I couldn’t fathom what The Shallows could do to set it apart. The premise was similar to Open Water, only instead of being stranded in the middle of the ocean this time the woman is stranded on a small rock being taken by the tide. I didn’t have high hopes.
The Shallows has some great moments of tension but falls into the common trap of succumbing to ridiculousness to conjure an ending.
There were several things that made The Shallows frustrating to watch, and the main one is that the entire premise falls apart the moment you think about it too much. The premise is that Nancy (Blake Lively) locates the secret beach her mom visited when she was younger. Her mother has recently passed away and Nancy is not reacting well as she has dropped out of med school. The friend she was supposed to surf with is hungover and wouldn’t go with her. The fact that someone smart enough to be in medical school thought it was a good idea to go surfing by herself on a beach so remote that no one will tell her the name of it blows my mind. As someone who spent a good portion of her young childhood on the beach and in the Atlantic Ocean it nearly made me angry to think about how dumb that was. Then there are the two nameless surfers she meets in the water that don’t spend an extra five minutes doing the right thing to see if the lone American woman in Mexico needs a lift home or even makes it to shore. It’s not their responsibility but that seems like it would have been the right thing to do.
Then there is the fact that the shark spends an entire day stalking her which doesn’t make sense either. A shark, even an aggressive one, would not spend that long stalking someone like that. Nancy is attacked and the attack is brutal as it shows her being thrown around by the wave. The shark bites her on the thigh, a very common place for a shark bite, but in the real world the shark would have swam away after that. This shark is like the shark from the latter Jaws movies or the whale from Orca in that it seems to have a personal vendetta against this young woman.
There are some great moments throughout the movie, though. Blake Lively has never really endeared herself to me but she was fairly believable in this movie. The things she does to keep herself alive are clever and there are some truly tense moments that made me jump. However, the movie goes on and decides, after a fairly decent first and second act, to go completely insane with the finale. I almost want to spoil how stupid this ending is because it’s completely bonkers. To say that this movie “jumps the shark” is putting it lightly. There is a moment where I would have accepted the movie for what it was had it ended differently. The final scenes with the shark are laugh out loud stupid and it nearly ruined the movie for me.
The Shallows is no Jaws or Open Water, but as far as shark movies go it’s higher on the list than I thought it would be. The ending is one of the dumbest things I’ve ever seen put to film,and the entire premise requires you to suspend all disbelief, but for an 87 minute time killer you could certainly do worse.