The Shallows…lacks bite.
Surfing alone on a paradisiacal beach that you don’t know the name of and no one knows you’re there.
What could wrong?
Well…with a plot seemingly written on tracing paper, ‘The Shallows,’ could be forgiven for being a shark fable, where the only task is: “Don’t get eaten!”
Since Jaws first graced the silver screen, man (and woman) has had an uneasy affiliation with Sharks. Whether it’s the love for the simplistic nature of the apex predator or the primal fear of encountering one on its own terms, sharks have long been a basis for tinsel town’s summer blockbuster. Unfortunately blockbuster this is not, granted with its ‘modest’ $17m budget, this is more akin to having a bite with Jaws 5, than a standalone Creature Feature.
The writer (Anthony Jaswinski, who also wrote ‘Satanic,’ ‘Vanishing on 7th Street,’ and ‘Kristy,’) initially appears to unsettle the viewer with suspense rather that shocks – he does however also choose to ignore 400 million years of shark behaviours in an attempt to fashion a movie that at time drifts into the sketchy waters of the ridiculous abyss.
We’re quickly invited to believe that sharks can have an unquestionably personal vendetta and that gold pendants can be the equivalent to a surfer’s Swiss Army Knife.
It’s a textbook opening, straight from an episode of Dawson’s Creek. We’re introduced to the protagonist Nancy (Blake Lively) in the opening shot and quickly given context as to why she is travelling alone using the increasing popular HUD Smartphone and picture in picture displays.
Her guide/ride drops her in Paradise, where the surfer chick is instantly at home and eager to catch waves. Cue the gratuitous ‘getting into a wetsuit scene’: who knew they were supposed to be that tight? But I guess the budget had to be going on something, right?
Now for the main course: she’s out on the surf, hanging ten and catching waves. There are a couple of ‘surfer dudes’ frequenting the same tides but our girl just wants to be alone so just paddles on past. So far past in fact that she inadvertently finds herself in a shark’s territorial feeding area. Here is where the exceptions in the story rise above the surface; the cinematography is fantastic at times, panning and scanning the horizon giving a real sense of isolation. In some of the best horrors, the feeling of dread is the amount of time you don’t see the object of terror. The swelling crescendo related to the longevity of this expected horror. The closed door at the end of the hallway that will fling open right when we least suspect it…The shallows just didn’t get that and went straight for the kill at the first opportunity.
If you’re expecting a terrifyingly realistic Great White Shark you may be slightly out of luck here, as this is where the $17m budget exposes the floors in modern film and cheap CGI. The shark is a visual step up from ‘Sharknado,’ yet a notch down from ‘Deep Blue Sea.’ Yet they have no issues showing you the attacker in all its glory right from the first bite. As soon as you’ve seen Sharky the small amounts of suspense and tension slowly begin to drift away.
Once the initial encounter occurs we find our survivor desolate on a rock and with the tide creeping in, she hasn’t much time before it submerges under the sea. This appears to be where the best part of the story occurs; painfully close to the shore, circled by the personally aggrieved invader with her blood spilling out on the rocks.
Nancy must devise a plan that will get her to safety, with the tide due to consume her plateau exposing her to the perilous and unforgiving sea. She is so close to the shore but she needs a new base, she needs a beacon of hope, she needs a buoy! Yep a buoy, out of the pan and into the fire. Her injury prevents her optimum swimming speed for now but as sharks are ‘entirely predictable’ she devises a scheme to get her from A to Buoy (sorry, couldn’t resist) Gauging the distance of the haven from her rock and the tidal fluctuation using her obviously pretty awesome watch.
Without giving too much away, (if, like me, you were excited about this film) I’ll just say that from this point the movie throttles from 0 to 100, very quickly. Ron Burgundy would be uttering, “Boy, that escalated quickly… I mean, that really got out of hand fast.” We are treated to explosions, air borne-metal-munching, flare guns and a psychedelic deep-sea swim-race through a field of Toxic Jelly Fish that wouldn’t be out of place in ‘Finding Nemo.’ Culminating in possibly the most ridiculous, no, most preposterous finale possibly conceivable. If you’re looking for an easy watch with a lacklustre ending, this could be the film you’re looking for on a hung over Sunday. If however, you’re looking for a Shark attack movie to compare to jaws, like the loch ness monster… the search continues.
Had this not starred Blake Lively, this would either be a straight-to-DVD release, found in the petrol station bargain bucket or on the Sci-Fi channel at 1.25am.
The story is bland and lacks any substantial meat to keep you gripped; if you’re watching this on your phone you’ll be checking your social media timelines – guaranteed.#
PS. If you want to kick the excitement up a notch, hold your breath whenever Nancy is under the water and see if you would survive.
Great cinematography and build up only to be marred by a bland storyline and preposterous ending.
Movie Review by Michael Prime