The Shallows (2016) Review

Her hubby, Ryan Reynolds, used to play a role trapped in a limited setting (coffin, to be exact) in 2010’s Buried. Now it’s her turn, as Blake Lively a.k.a. Mrs Reynolds plays a character confined in a limited setting (a tiny rock island).

Here’s the synopsis: Following the loss of her cancer-stricken mother (Janelle Bailey), med school student Nancy (Blake Lively) is seeking solace by travelling to Mexico in search of her mum’s favourite secluded beach. After having a good time catching some waves and even get to know two friendly Mexican surfers, everything seems fine at the beginning. But her surfing trip gradually turns into a nightmare when she finds herself encountering a hungry great white shark, while stranded 200 yards away from the shore.

In The Shallows, Lively is basically a one-woman show albeit some minor characters in-between. Blessed with a photogenic beauty and an amazing beach body, she is definitely easy on the eyes. In fact, director Jaume Collet-Serra and his regular cinematographer Flavio Martinez Labiano love her so much that they ensure the camera lingers around her body as much as they could. It’s almost like watching a big screen version of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit complete with plenty of slow-motion shots.

Fortunately, she is more than just eye candy. As Nancy, she delivers a compelling yet sympathetic performance that it’s hard not to root for her survival. Whether watching her in agony trying to stitch her wound (a gory scene that looks absolutely harrowing) or tending to an injured seagull a.k.a. “Steven Seagull”, Lively is simply fine as an actress.

As for Jaume Collet-Serra, the Spanish director knows a thing or two about orchestrating a few suspenseful moments as well as some nifty shark action. While the climactic third-act may have stretches believability the way Nancy trying to outwit the shark, it’s hard to deny Collet-Serra still manages to stage a solid edge-of-the-seat finale. It also helps that the shark looks scary and convincing enough in CG effects.

However, The Shallows is not without its flaws. In what could have been a modern shark-thriller classic since Jaws, Collet-Serra’s direction tends to be erratic. Over the course of nearly 90 minutes, the pace isn’t as taut as it should be. Anthony Jaswinski’s bare-bones script is one of the culprits, with the story’s stop-and-start narrative approach often kills the momentum. For instance, the scene where Nancy confessing every possible last word to a GoPro helmet cam is stretching too long.

Although The Shallows is far from a great shark movie, this little summer thriller remains decent enough as escapist entertainment.

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