The Shallows Review


It’s been 40 years since Jaws made us all afraid to venture into the water, and The Shallows, the latest movie from House of Wax director Jaume Collet-Serra dares to evoke the memory of summer’s first blockbuster, pitting Blake Lively against a shark with varying degrees of quality. The Shallows defies all expectations, and in a summer full of terrible sequels and unwanted reboots it’s a much needed breath of fresh air – reminding us all what popcorn cinema is really about.

Lively plays Nancy, a young med student taking some time away from her studies to clear her mind and deal with the recent death of her mother. She heads down to a picturesque beach in Mexico, one of her mother’s favourites, to catch some waves and find herself again. Venturing into the water all alone, with no help for miles she soon finds herself stranded through injury and things only get worse when that unforgiving shark fin shows up. Nancy must use her medical expertise and swimming skills to either escape from the shark, or somehow defeat it.

The shark movie has spent the majority of the last 40 years living in the B-movie doldrums and The Shallows takes all the tropes of these movies and makes them effective again. As he did with Non-Stop, Collet-Serra shows he can take a silly, over the top premise and make it into a barrel of fun with some efficient directorial work. He clearly understands the genre; fear is more effective when we can’t see what is beneath and the tension is built effectively throughout. The Shallows spends the best part of its very short 79 minute run time teasing us before finally paying off in the third and final act.

A film like this would never survive either without a brilliant leading lady though and Lively utilises her melodramatic style to full effect here and whilst Sandra Bullock in Gravity she is not, she does carry this film very well in what is the best performance of her career so far.

The film’s only real mis-step is the hammy storyline about Nancy’s mother. The film spends far too long building a forced back story around Nancy so that we care about her when she is battling for her life. Whilst the added character no doubt helps us get on her side it weighs down the movie, especially in the opening 15 minutes when we are just waiting for the action to start. So whilst it is not without its flaws, The Shallows is one of the most fun movies to hit the cinema this summer.