Not since Jaws have we truly witnessed a shark movie that can be regarded as something refreshing and, most importantly, full of fear and dread. We’ve seen genetically modified beasts of the sea (Deep Blue Sea) and the threat of being stranded at sea (Open Water) but these are merely forgettable entities vying for that memorable status. Thankfully, the latest offering in the sub-genre rides the highest of waves and is a contender for the best of its kind in decades.
The Shallows follows Nancy Adams (Blake Lively), a medical student whose recent loss of her mother sees her visiting a ‘secret’ beach that her dearly departed would often talk of. Seeing it as an opportunity to clear her mind and hit the waves, Nancy soon finds that the dangers of the sea go beyond the waves. After being crashed onto the reef and rocks beneath the water, Nancy finds herself on land that is 200 yards from shore.
With a minimal amount of individuals knowing about the beach itself, Nancy is in a dire situation, with the water level rising above the land she is on within hours and only a seagull, aptly named ‘Steven Seagull’ for company. To make matters worse, that seemingly short swim to shore is hampered by one great danger – a great white shark ready to take her on…
The Shallows is a rare shark movie that manages to engross you almost instantaneously. Introduced to an interesting character in Lively’s Nancy, the film gives us that immediate connection with its main protagonist, as we discover the reason for her visit to the beach and find that sense of investment that is so key. Without this, the events that follow wouldn’t be half as effective. A core component of such success is a powerhouse performance from Blake Lively, an actress who is often underrated in her ability to portray true drama and emotional bite. Here she has no difficulty whatsoever in drawing us, the audience, in to her fight for survival.
This is a film that is visually pleasing to the eye, with the sheer sight of the beach upon first glance presenting an ultimate paradise for anyone, before the imagery of the first glimpses of the shark and the destruction it causes soon turning this paradise into a nightmare scenario. With the camera capturing this sheer beauty amid the chaos and scares, The Shallows features a wonderful combination of dread and beauty, while always delivering in the underwater horrors, coupled with some brilliant sound design along the way.
Where The Shallows also revels is in its sheer tension and fear. From the moment in which the shark first appears stalking its prey in a sheer moment of visual greatness, we are fearful for our lead character and that rarely lets up. We bare witness to its true danger in a sequence of shock, only heightening the scares as it devours a human being, and it paves the way for a thrilling finale.
At a mere 90 minutes, The Shallows is an absolute breeze of a shark movie, never over-indulging or letting up on its main mission – to keep us on the edge of our seats. Powered by a superb leading performance from Blake Lively and serving up drama and thrills in equal measure, this is the shark movie you’ve been waiting for since Jaws.
The Shallows is out on BluRay and DVD on 5th December.