The Shallows Review
The film packs plenty of bite but might have you swearing off beaches for a while!
When surfer Nancy finds the perfect Mexican beach, not catching any waves soon becomes the least of her worries.Taking time out from her medical degree to do a spot of travelling, Nancy decides to visit a secluded beach that her mother used to frequent. With her surfboard in tow Nancy takes to the waves to get some much needed time alone - but if it was relaxation she was after, she’s in for a shock. Nancy (Blake Lively) took the death of her mother hard, doubting her career choice and the capability of medicine, she decides to see the world and reflect on life.At the start of The Shallows, Nancy tracks down the secret beach that her mother used to visit when she was young and pregnant with her. Here Nancy hopes to feel closer to her mother and catch some gnarly waves at the same time. Let down by her travelling buddy, due to a hangover, Nancy decides not to let that get in her way and successfully finds the beach with the help of Carlos (Óscar Jaenada) a friendly fellow who offers her a ride.
Over the sound of lively dance music we watch as Nancy rides the waves and proves that she’s got the stock to back up her surfer chick style. These scenes, whilst excellently shot, did feel more like an advert for the latest surf and beach wear brand - that said, the sound was mixed nicely so that when the camera delved into the shallow water it cut out the music and let the sound of the water take over which really helped create atmosphere and the sense that despite the shallowness of the water much more than just coral was lurking beneath.
After catching a few waves and meeting a couple of surfer dudes Nancy takes a short break to refuel before heading back into the sea. Warned that it’ll be dark soon, Nancy assures the two guys that she’s just heading out to catch one more wave. It’s on that final wave that she realises she’s not alone in the water. Knocked off her surfboard and with a gaping fresh wound to her leg Nancy finds momentary safety on a tiny nearby rock of an island. Battling against the forces of nature and the countdown to high tide, Nancy uses everything she’s got in her fight to stay alive.
Don’t let the bright, airy cinematography at the start of The Shallows lure you into a false sense of security. The main body of the film is exhausting and to a certain degree, relentless. The film begins with glorious overhead shots of the most beautiful beach, with clear blue waters and fine golden sand. The recent memory of these shots only heightens the contrast in the middle of the film when the water appears murky and stained bright red from recently spilled blood.
It’s a simplistic and uncomplicated watch with plenty of tension packed in
The camera flits between close ups of Nancy and long circling shots showing her a mere 200 yards away from shore where her phone, her connection to civilisation awaits. Slow motion is used throughout the film which contributes to the tension and suspense of particular life or death moments. The threat hiding underneath the water isn’t given much screen time aside from a few close ups, but this only intensifies the danger awaiting Nancy with each minute she spends in the water.
For the most part The Shallows works well as a lone survivor film - Lively is effectively cast as the strong and determined Nancy, refusing to give in. Using what little she has on her she successfully makes sure that if she’s going out, she’s going out knowing that she did everything she could to survive. I’ve never seen Gossip Girl or any other film Lively’s been in for that matter, but judging from her performance in The Shallows I’d say she’s up there with fellow survivors James Franco in 127 Hours and Tom Hanks in Cast Away.
Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra and written by Anthony Jaswinski The Shallows is just under an hour and half of intense escapism - providing you can look past the slightly jarring use of Instagram pop up windows and the ever so slightly cheesy ending. It’s an easy watch with moments that will have you swearing off ever venturing into the sea again; at least until the end of the film.
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