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Review: The Shallows is Light, Fun Summer Movie Fare

The Shallows

There are not enough shark movies; specifically, shark movies produced by major studios for wide release. Since Universal released the last Jaws sequel in 1987, the only big studio shark films have been 1999’s Deep Blue Sea and 2011’s Shark Night 3D (Open Water was made independently and received a limited release before it expanded). The world needs more shark movies, and the release of a new one from a major studio is cause for excitement. The only question is whether or not it’s any good. In the case of The Shallows, the answer is: It’s not bad. 

Set in Mexico but filmed in Australia, the picture stars Blake Lively as Nancy Adams. Unbeknownst to her family back in Texas, Nancy is in Mexico with a friend as she ponders whether or not to quit medical school. While her friend nurses a wicked hangover, Nancy seeks out a secret and unnamed beach with the help of a friendly local. It’s the very same beach her late mother visited right after she found out she was pregnant.

The Shallows

The beach is stunning, and the day starts off well as Nancy makes some friends and gets in some excellent surfing. Unfortunately a whale carcass attracts the attention of a massive, hungry shark. And the shark gives Nancy a nasty leg wound. But she manages to climb on top of the dead whale before swimming to some coral that makes for a small island she can rest on. She’s 200 yards from shore, bleeding and in pain, with a very large shark circling.

If you’re the type of person who holds their breath and squirms when the camera plunges beneath the surface, anxiously anticipating the glimpse of a shark, The Shallows should work for you. Director Jaume Collet-Serra, who is responsible for the Liam Neeson action flicks Unknown, Non-Stop, and Run All Night, knows how to craft a solid genre picture. He keeps things moving swiftly and at less than 90 minutes there’s hardly any filler here.

The bottom line is the shark scenes deliver the goods. This critic gasped more than once. The shark attacks swiftly and ferociously, and the movie finds a way to add a few characters that exist only as shark bait. Even though the fate of these side characters is never in doubt, the manner of their demise is highly effective. Some attacks we see and some we don’t, but the scenes are brutal and thrilling, just as they should be. There’s even brief but fairly graphic gore, the kind you don’t typically see in PG-13 summer fare. 

The ShallowsThere are some minor annoyances that are fairly easy to overlook, but they’re annoying all the same. Nancy talks to herself a lot, and at times it’s distracting. Much of what she says is obvious, and it’s too bad that the filmmakers don’t trust the audience more. It’s also a little too sappy at times, reminding us at least once too often that Nancy is a fighter who’ll never ever forget her mother. Finally, while most of the effects are top-notch, the CGI is very apparent at times.

It’s not going to win any awards for originality, but The Shallows is good summer fun. There’s beautiful scenery and a few outstanding set pieces, and that’s really all one can ask of a shark movie. Plus, at a time when almost every single movie is more than two hours long, it’s refreshing to watch something that knows exactly how long it needs to be. Here’s hoping it finds an audience on a crowded weekend.

Director(s): Jaume Collet-Serra
Writer(s): Anthony Jaswinski
Stars: Blake Lively, Brett Cullen, Oscar Jaenada, Sedona Legge
Release: June 24 (Wide Theatrical)
Studio/Production Columbia Pictures/Ombra Films/Weimaraner Republic Pictures
Budget: $17 million   
Language: English
Length: 85 minutes  
Sub-Genre: Shark  

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