Film review: The Shallows is full of high tension and cleverly made

The Shallows Director: Jaume Collet-Serra Starring: Blake Lively Three stars It can’t be easy to make an entertaining film the majority of which sees nothing more happening than a woman sitting on a rock, but Collet-Serra and Lively make a great job of drawing the most from the very limited tools at hand. Lively’s medical […]

The Shallows

Director: Jaume Collet-Serra

Starring: Blake Lively

Three stars

It can’t be easy to make an entertaining film the majority of which sees nothing more happening than a woman sitting on a rock, but Collet-Serra and Lively make a great job of drawing the most from the very limited tools at hand.

Lively’s medical student Nancy has taken a solo trip to Mexico following her mother’s death. A few days surfing is her self-prescription to deal with her grief, but the ordeal she undergoes was not part of the plan. There’s a shark on the loose, and it’s a big, killer shark that appears to have a huge chip on its shoulder and a personal vendetta against Nancy in particular, and humanity in general. Thus she finds herself spending most of the film’s running time sitting on the aforementioned rock as her enemy circles her.

In a sense, Collet-Serra has taken on an impossible task – what audience could sit through 90 minutes of shark-related summer blockbuster terror without thinking of a certain movie? However hard you try, the memory of Jaws looms large over this film, and naturally it doesn’t measure up – what would?

Taken on its own terms, though, the director has created a thoroughly entertaining study of tension and the innate human desire to survive. Lively is given a huge task – to essentially carry the entire film as a solo performer with a savaged leg and a seagull as her co-star – and she rises to it admirably, simultaneously a study of calm determination to survive and utter panic. The shark itself is used sparingly, according to the Hitchcockian rule of ‘less is more,’ and in a rare moment of point-scoring over Spielberg’s antecedent, when we do occasionally see it, it actually looks like a shark. It’s Lively who carries the film though, despite the lack of traditional narrative helpers like dialogue or human interaction, and she does so admirably.

A needlessly sentimental ending somewhat dampens the 80-odd minutes of high tension that has gone before, but if you can ignore that, or simply leave two-minutes earlier following the high-drama final confrontation, you won’t be disappointed. But no, of course it’s not Jaws.

Source: art & life

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