The Shallows – 2016

Director Jaume Collet-Serra
Screenplay Anthony Jaswinski
Starring Blake Lively

One would think Blake Lively in a movie called The Shallows is an asshole reviewers’ dream match. In truth, we can’t make this movie into more than it is: a scary movie with a shark. There is no way a shark that big could be in shallow water, right?  There’s no way she’d go out surfing on her own as the sun began to go down, right? There’s no way those two guys would leave her out there by herself, right?

I’m ahead of myself, though. First we have to figure out how Lively’s Nancy got the name Nancy (my daughter’s question) and why she is out in this hidden cove, surfing by herself. A few hints: mother’s legacy, thinking about quitting medical school, friend’s “Irish flu” and some “me time.” The how and the why really writes itself. The important thing is we get Lively out there in a bikini, making surfing look like the journey and the destination.

After some nice cinematography with waves, nature and the setting sun, we get a hint of trouble. A rather large whale carcass has floated into the area and for some reason Nancy has to move almost on top of it before she realizes it is there. Even more mysterious, she didn’t smell it hours before.

Oh well, too late now. Something is munching on the whale’s body and soon enough, she is brought into the feast. Before you can say gangrene, she’s washed onto a rock that will only be there as long as the tide is low. One has to say hypothermia a few times though before others will arrive to the scene to witness and become part of the distress.

She has a friend that joins her on her rock in the form of a gull named Steven Seagal. It’s a strange aside that actually fits in the framework of her softly sympathetic character. Much of the screenplay is very clunky and almost impossible for any actor to pull off in monologue form. Indeed, the film might have worked better had they sliced 2/3 of the dialogue out for the film.

The direction is competent enough. There are some very pretty shots along the way without seeming gratuitos. The only major failing is late in the film with the glowing, stinging jelly fish. The visuals and execution are hilariously bad and yank the viewer completely out of the mood that had been established. And they never get it back. Even a young teenager like my daughter Em knows that a shark can’t bite through a metal dingy.

It’s too bad. Lively had the right idea being in a film like this. Collet-Serra has built a pretty solid career out of Liam Neeson action films. This could have worked if they had shown a little restraint.

(**1/2 out of *****)

Em’s rating

(* out of *****)

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