Release: 5th December 2016
Format: BR / DVD / DGTL
Still reeling from the loss of her mother, medical student Nancy Adams travels to a secluded beach for some much-needed solace. Despite the danger of surfing alone, Nancy decides to soak up the sun and hit the waves. Suddenly, a great white shark attacks, forcing her to swim to a giant rock for safety. Left injured and stranded 200 yards from shore, the frightened young woman must fight for her life as the deadly predator circles her in its feeding ground.
Look at The Shallows on surface level and it seems pretty pedestrian; girl gets hunted by a shark. It has all the ingredients of a b-movie fit for the SyFy channel; and the opening scenes do not help either. But once director Jaume Collet-Serra moves past his fascination with After Effects, Blake Lively’s body, and moonlighting as a promoter for Australia’s tourism board, The Shallows gradually becomes a pretty decent survival horror. It may be far from the likes of The Revenant, but The Shallows has more in common with Leo’s gruelling drama than it does with David Hasselhoff chopping up Great Whites in a tornado.
The Shallows is at its most enjoyable when Collet-Serra ramps up the tension. A rising tide, a drunken bystander, a disadvantaged race to dry land, The Shallows is littered with moments that will literally have you shouting at the TV. Here is a film that revels in playing familiar beats; it makes no apology for being so down right aggressive in its mission. The Shallows wants to make you sweat. As is customary with any survival film, body shock gore abounds. If you ever wanted to see Blake Lively plug her own leg up with an earring pin, then you are in luck. Human flesh and razor sharp coral do not go well together, and the sound design here is pretty visceral.
In terms of story, The Shallows is a relatively apt name. There is little-to-no complexity about the narrative or, indeed, the character arc. Justify it as they might, one might even assume that the filmmakers understood that this is a film about experience and mood rather than protagonist growth. The few wisps of development that do exist play out in relative silence, and lead to an all-to-obvious ending. In spite of this, Blake Lively seems game to give genuine life to Nancy, and does her best to make conversing with a seagull seem relatively normal.
The biggest gripe – outside of the utterly laughable final reel – is the disastrous formation of pixels that make up our shark. The Shallows is at its most unwatchable when we get up close and personal with the film’s big bad. To say that the visual effects are tragic would be an understatement. There are times when the shark is just a shadow or a silhouette, and these moments look great, but when full exposure is called for, then suspension of disbelief comes crashing down.
No one will be featuring The Shallows in their top 10 this year, and it will more than likely fade into distant memory soon enough. But for the moment, The Shallows is a fun and tense popcorn flick that will inevitably become a travel agents dream. Watch it with the lights off, then go for a swim. I dare you.
Film Grade: C-
Some throw away Deleted Scenes makes way for a few detailed yet short Making Ofs. Everyone seems to be skirting around the reality that shooting on location was absolutely awful, by Collet-Serra seems to have no issue in saying this outright. When Sharks Attack is very brief, by a worthy addition to the material.
Note: Both the DVD and the Blu-Ray have identical special features.
Special Features Grade: C-
You’ll be remiss in letting The Shallows slip through the net, so make sure to seek it out. Just don’t expect anything like that popular “J” word.