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New Release Review - THE SHALLOWS

A surfer finds herself menaced by a great white shark.





Review by Eric Hillis (@hilliseric)

Directed by: Jaume Collet-Serra

Starring: Blake Lively, ├ôscar Jaenada, Angelo Jose, Brett Cullen



All you should need to make a good movie is a girl and a shark, but Serra fails to deliver the basics, instead fashioning a movie that too often resembles a female oriented riff on an '80s Old Spice commercial. The Shallows is a damp squib.



In this age of Hollywood banality, it seems everything is up for a remake, but a few movies are still sacred at this point. One of these is Jaws. It would take serious audacity to attempt to 'better' or 'upgrade' Spielberg's masterpiece, so few filmmakers would dare touch it. But the truth is, Jaws probably won't be remade for the simple reason that it's too simple a concept for modern Hollywood. Thanks to the SyFy Channel and knock-off studio The Asylum, sharks are now synonymous with over the top genre parodies like the Sharknado series, a one joke concept that just won't go away.


It's commendable then that Jaume Collet-Serra has attempted to deliver a simple, old school man (or woman, as is the case here) versus nature thriller with The Shallows. He gives us a single shark, one which doesn't boast any radioactive superpowers or lazer beams; it's just a great white, one of the scariest creatures on our big blue ball.

Visiting the 'secret' Mexican beach where her late mother liked to catch some legendary waves, surfer Nancy (Blake Lively) follows her Mom's footsteps and enjoys some south of the border surf. Her fun is interrupted however by the arrival of a shark, which attacks Nancy and draws blood, leaving a considerable gash on her leg.


Nancy swims to a small reef, which is where most of the remainder of the film plays out. In theory this should be All is Lost with a maneater, a tale of survival with a lone protagonist, but Serra lacks either the confidence or (more likely) the skill to pull off such a visually led narrative. Like Will Smith's canine companion in I Am Legend, here Nancy is joined on the reef by an injured seagull, an excuse to have the lone protagonist spell out her thoughts in words. Serra rarely allows Lively's facial expressions to convey her state of mind, instead having her vomit out exposition as she tells the seagull, herself and the audience her plans for survival.

Serra is equally unable to convey any real sense of danger. A few Mexican extras become shark fodder, but we never feel any doubt as to whether Nancy is going to beat her predicament. There's a lack of tension, thanks to the choppy, unfocussed editing, and Serra relies on onscreen graphics to convey the lowering and rising of the tides where most filmmakers would have found a simple way to visually communicate such a threat.


It's Lively who is most ill-served by the film and Serra's direction; she gives a confident performance but is denied the chance to really sink her incisors into the role.

All you should need to make a good movie is a girl and a shark, but Serra - whose cult following among cinephiles is a continued source of bemusement to this writer - fails to deliver the basics, instead fashioning a movie that too often resembles a female oriented riff on an '80s Old Spice commercial. The Shallows is a damp squib.



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