The Shallows is simple, suspenseful and satisfying. Everything you want it to be.
The story is simple. Nancy (Blake Lively) is a young woman on a journey to find herself after her mother passes away. She has finally found the “perfect secret” beach her mother always told her about. Nancy surfs the day away in paradise with two other local surfers who eventually leave for the evening. When trying to catch one last wave of the day, she unexpectedly is attacked by a great white shark. Trapped 200 yards off shore on a rock island in low tide, the film becomes a battle of wits and wills between Nancy and one of nature’s most vicious predators.
No doubt, the twiterverse will dismiss this movie as nothing more than a pretty girl in a bikini stuck on a rock in the ocean. But I want to praise Blake Lively’s performance in the film as she is both likeable and believable. We feel her joy, pain, confusion and fear throughout the film. She does a fantastic job keeping our interest in her survival, which is a fine line to walk when the focus is mostly on her and a shark.
I would actually recommend seeing this film in the theater. Not only to get the visual duality of beauty and danger of the ocean, but more importantly, to get that same experience through fantastic sound. There is no thematic score warning you of danger like “Jaws,” In fact, as I write this I cannot remember there being any kind of score at all. If there was, it was minimal. But the sound design set in realism makes you feel the intimate and intense nature of this experience. This creates a satisfying payoff during those suspenseful moments where you want to look away, but cannot bring yourself to do so.
The Shallows is thoroughly enjoyable as it delivers everything it suggests from the trailer and more. At 83 minutes it does not feel long or forced but rather it delivers a simple story with the precision of timing in suspenseful moments that will keep you on the edge of your seat.
4 ½ stars out of 5