‘The Shallows’ Packs Efficient Bite In The Not-So-Deep Blue Sea (Movie Review)

shallows thumbJust when you thought it was safe to get Blake in the water, along comes The Shallows. Here’s an efficient thriller that milks a solid premise for all it’s worth. A surfer is trapped on a rock near the shore, while a shark circles her. Other details keep it interesting, even while the film goes over-the-top in its final act, but it does all it can to satisfy its b-movie machinations. Not hurting is star Blake Lively, who is more than capable of providing an action-movie lead to keep us involved with the thrills.



Lively stars as Nancy, a medical student who has traveled to a secluded beach for good surf. The surf is worth the journey, as Nancy finds herself catching some great swells along with a couple other fun-seeking surfers. However, things take a turn for the worse when Nancy finds herself alone in the water with the exception of a great white shark that sinks some of its many teeth into her leg. Nancy soon finds herself alone on a rock (well, she has a seagull to keep her company), with only her wits to figure out how to escape this situation.

The Shallows comes from director Jaume Collet-Serra, who has previously given us a trilogy of Liam Neeson action/genre flicks in the form of Unknown, Non-Stop and Run All Night. One wouldn’t think the torch would pass on from Neeson to Lively, as far as high-concept thrillers go, but here we are. Fortunately, the results are quite good assuming you can appreciate the very non-subtle style Collet-Serra continues to bring to his films.

Those familiar with Collet-Serra’s previous work may be aware of his penchant for incorporating technology. This means seeing large projections of text conversations, video chats and even a stopwatch in an attempt to enliven the film by way of visual exposition. It can be off-putting, but a film like this does not necessarily miss out by not relying purely on what can be seen on camera.

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Filmed mostly in New South Wales, Austrailia (doubling for Mexico), it doesn’t hurt to have such a nice location making up the majority of the film. It certainly helps when it comes to acknowledging the film for the budget it has, which leads to some shoddy CG work when looking at the shark and other sea life. One will also call into question the believability of a number of scenarios, especially in the film’s final act, but that’s when you have to consider the strength of the lead performance and the nature of a movie like this.

For what is required of her, Lively does her job. The film does what it needs to in an effort to set up a backstory that explains both her abilities and what drive her (because not wanting to get eaten by a shark apparently isn’t enough). Still, as opposed to something like Open Water, which trades likable characters in for a movie played completely straight, The Shallows has both a competent lead performance and plenty of gallows humor for us to rely on. This is especially apparent when watching Nancy make friends with her new buddy Stephen Seagull.

At under 90 minutes without credits, Collet-Serra gets the film set up quickly and rarely allows the film a chance to breathe. This could be an error for films with more intricate scenarios or a larger cast, but The Shallows is a tightly-assembled thriller that delivers what it needs to. Things get a bit rocky when it comes to Lively v Shark: Dawn of Buoy, but the film does well to balance both thrills and the inherent fun from watching this sort of intense survival scenario.

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Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Gamer, Comic Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

1 Response to “‘The Shallows’ Packs Efficient Bite In The Not-So-Deep Blue Sea (Movie Review)”

  1. Brian White

    Stephen Seagull!

    Haha. Love it. We caught it last Friday night. Surprised to see you liked it so much. I’m pretty much in agreement with you on everything here.