The Shallows

Decent at best, The Shallows might just stand out in a summer crowded with unremarkable films.

‘So close yet so far’ might be an apt irony to describe The Shallows, a B-movie horror-thriller that just manages to stay afloat. Just about, because the setup is quite ridiculous to begin with, yet visually arresting when required. It doesn’t help either that the story is a no-brainer where almost every situation is force-fed via exposition. It gets to a point where the main character Nancy (bikini clad Blake Lively) says exactly what she is about to do, to let us know exactly what is about to happen. And we do.

The situation has Nancy – a surfer babe on holiday at a Mexican beach – stalked by a great white shark. The shark is both psychotic and very, very hungry. Amongst the many ironies in this film, the most obvious is the fact that she is just two hundred yards from shore. That’s a short distance for her athletic abilities but also the death zone and probably where the film gets its title. Between the shark and the shore, Nancy finds herself stranded on a rock with time running out before the tide comes in. We know this because every ticking minute is flashed on screen thanks to her Casio Baby-G. Her watch, her knowledge as a medical student and memories of her mother fighting cancer sets the stage for what turns out to be survival against all odds.

If this was a Spielberg film someone would have suggested a bigger boat, instead director Jaume Collet-Serra is content with staging all the action and terror in limited space and without lavish visual effects. Having previously directed that little 2009 thriller Orphan, Collect-Serra isn’t new to the horror genre and it shows. There are some gorgeous underwater scenes, a lot of blood, tense moments of suspense leading to jump scares, and even a joke about a wounded seagull, but is that enough? Call it a fluke, and however middling The Shallows might seem at times, it could still prove a tad bit better than the horde of unremarkable films this summer. And like the title says, there isn’t much depth but watching lively Lively is worth the time it takes to sink your teeth into this one; or the shark – whichever bites first.

Rating: ★★½☆☆

About Lloyd Bayer

Besides his passion for travelling, photography and scuba diving, Lloyd is a prolific film critic having contributed hundreds of film reviews to web and print journals, including IMDb and local daily Khaleej Times.