COLUMBIA PICTURES (2016)

Director: Jaume Collet-Serra

Starring: Blake Lively, Steven Seagull, Great White Shark

If you like Blake Lively, or shots of her wet arse, then you’re going to love The Shallows. Aside from a few short appearances by other characters, the film is focused solely on her – which is not a bad thing. Far from being simply a bikini commercial,  Lively puts her all into the performance, every scream feels real, every desperate slump seems genuine – she delivers a fine performance, and isn’t afraid of where the camera goes – a really good performance.

 

The camerawork and cinematography are very tight for the majority of the movie and helps provide a claustrophobic yet isolated atmosphere. However, the long shots really highlight the remoteness of the situation – 200 yards from the shore yet it can feel like 20 miles due to the neat camerawork.

The underwater shots also provide a fitting sense of dread, as the clear blue water fades into an ominous dark, where a massive bloodthirsty shark is lurking somewhere. The shark is used sparingly to create a real sense of the unknown – we all know it’s a huge shark, but it isn’t in every shot, some of its actions are off screen, and other times it’s seen in the shadows. When it is shown, its fearsome teeth are at the forefront – they’re big and vicious looking. The movie does a good job of using its beast wisely. The shark has some good scenes when it isn’t lurking in the shadows and is a good, creepy monster for the movie.

 

The movie also benefits from a short, tight runtime. Any background is quickly introduced early on making way for the confrontation and allowing it to develop without feeling overly rushed before the final duel. It also manages to give Lively some great development scenes – the shots of her dealing with her injuries on the rock and her forlorn conversations with Steven Seagull all help to further the character and to create the sense of near hopelessness.

 

The story itself is fairly flimsy in terms of how she got there and the events leading to the isolation – however, the exposition is set up via a FaceTime-style family conversation and messages to her absent surf mate and the movie makes up for this by the way it develops the character and the nightmarish situation. With the early story laid out, obviously her career choice becomes a convenience when it comes to injuries, as does the supply of necklaces/medical supplies, however by simply letting us know the fact, it explains the fact that she can pull the aid off. Exposition is a great thing, but can at times be stretched – for example, the surfer dudes casually mentioning a rock 200 years from shore, and the GoPro camera being given almost top billing – certain pieces seemed to obviously telegraphed. The CGI at times is slightly just below par – surprisingly some of the waves created looked worse than the shark (which looked pretty good actually) but I wouldn’t want to train a Great White to act, so it’s no problem to me. Also, I’m not 100% sure a shark would hang around one place for so long after having a few feasts (though the whale is the reason for its stay), but it would have been a short movie if it got bored and swam off. The conclusion is slightly underwhelming I thought, but it could also be very fitting to others.

 

The Shallows manages to take a potentially slow, aimless movie and turns it into a building, atmospheric and creepy isolation movie – using one main character, a shark, a rock and the ocean. It’s not Jaws, but it doesn’t need to be, nor does it try to be – it’s a fun movie which takes its story and makes an eerie movie out of it. With Blake Lively delivering a fine performance, the movie provides a great watch and some more reasons to fear what’s beneath the waves.

October 16th 2016

© 2016 Matt Hudson / What I Watched Tonight / Essex

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