Movie Review: The Shallows

What’s being touted as the best shark movie since Jaws isn’t even the best shark movie of 2016

The Shallows


Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra. Starring Blake Lively, Óscar Jaenada, Brett Cullen, Sedona Legge, Janelle Bailey, Chelsea Moody. Written by Anthony Jaswinski.

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Ah, the shark movie. Since Jaws came out in 1975, it has been endlessly imitated, and never duplicated. Hollywood just can’t get it right.

It’s astounding to think that in this age of sequels, remakes, reboots, and re-imaginings, no whispers of another Jaws movie have come up. They know something.

But one of the best shark movies since Jaws has been released in 2016. And that movie is In the Deep, starring Mandy Moore and Claire Holt as a pair of sisters trapped in a shark cage at the bottom of the ocean.

Oh, and then there’s the higher-profile, bigger-budgeted, better-looking The Shallows, which seems to have scored with critics and audiences alike, and rolls out into Czech cinemas this week. It’s roughly the same movie, just bigger, and louder, and (much) dumber.

In The Shallows, our surfer-slash-medic heroine Nancy (Blake Lively) is trapped on rock about 50 meters from an isolated beach while a huge great white circles around her. The shark has a dead whale he’s been nibbling on another 50 meters out, but any time Nancy sets a foot in the water he makes a mad dash for her.

Why does the shark care about Nancy? Because it’s not an animal that obeys the rules of nature but a slasher movie villain who needs to be a constant threat, as illogical as that may seem.

At least this one doesn’t growl. And the CGI used to create it is generally acceptable, though it gets cartoonish anytime the shark does a non-shark thing, like attempt to jump up onto the rocks or leap out of the ocean entirely to grab a rogue surfer.

But The Shallows has one thing going for it, and that’s Blake Lively. Relegated to a skimpy wetsuit or bikini throughout the film, the star gives credible, strong-willed performance and carries the entire movie on her shoulders.

The best, most intense and dramatic sequences in the movie have nothing to do with the shark, but instead with Nancy alone on the rock, attempting to stitch up her wounds and figure out how to survive. She even has her very own Wilson to talk to, a bird she names Steven Seagull.

Despite the unlikelihood of the premise – a shark sticking around to stalk out a land-borne heroine – it’s a tense and gripping thing most of the way thanks to Lively’s performance, though it starts to get tedious when the script can’t come up with something for her to do.

And then there’s the finale, which is so miscalculated and laughable in both concept and (mostly) execution that the film loses anyone who stuck around this far. The shark’s final scenes feel like something lifted out of Sharknado, not a serious-minded survival/horror movie.

Given the competition (Shark Night, anyone?), The Shallows is undeniably one of the better shark movies since Jaws; it’s a sillier, livelier version of Open Waters. But do yourself a favour and check out In the Deep, too. You might be pleasantly surprised.

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