I’m calling it: the most epic showdown this year isn’t between grunting titanic superheroes with petty beefs to work out, but Gossip Girl alum Blake Lively and a great white shark. Not to oversell Jaume Collet-Serra’s more-than-capable abilities, but the robust, engaging B-movie carpentry of The Shallows is one of the most convincing arguments yet to discuss, as many critical circles have, the Spanish director’s body of work in auteurist terms.
Svelte in construction, the film equally satisfies by being completely free of oppressive blockbuster bloat and supplying a compact vehicle for the oft-derided Lively to play to her strengths. Front and centre throughout, she’s no slouch, performing a bulk of the stuntwork and skillfully judging the emotional demands of her role as a vacationing surfer trapped in a precarious, single-location scenario that Hitchcock would’ve probably loved.
The shark, a heavily CG creation that’s come a long way since the hokey days of Deep Blue Sea, is wisely unseen in the initial passages à la Jaws, its presence only hinted at via the menacing appearance of fins and silhouettes. Much excitement comes from watching Lively, weakened by nasty leg gashes, trying to outsmart the shark with scrappy schemes, scant resources and the best-trained-seagull-ever by her side.
Admittedly, The Shallows sometimes looks like a shrewd, flashy collaborative branding exercise between GoPro, Sony Xperia and Casio, and the corny tacked-on coda is an unfortunate blemish. But if you’re craving some unfussy, sadistic, expertly timed jolts, this one’s a blast, a marvelous way to spend eighty minutes chewing your nails in the dark.
‘The Shallows’ Movie Times