In the US, about 19 shark attacks occur each year. There is a higher chance of being struck by lightning than being attacked by a shark. Nonetheless, everyone seems to share an innate fear of what lies within the deep blue sea. From Jaws to Shark Week, our fascination with these seemingly villainous creatures remains prevalent in our culture.
The Shallows offers us another fictional tale of an unsuspecting victim going up against a very angry shark. Although it might not add anything new to the shark attack genre, the film succeeds in entertaining audiences and reaffirming our common fear of becoming a predator’s prey.
After taking a leave of absence from medical school, Nancy Adams (Blake Lively) seeks to reconnect with her recently deceased mother by going to a beach her mother used to surf at. Unaware of the danger that lurks beneath the water, she tries to enjoy a gorgeous day with her board and the waves. When a great white shark makes it presence known, however, her day of surf turns into one of survival.
The plot is simple and thankfully, The Shallows knows this. With a running time of 87 minutes, the film does not waste any time with unnecessary exposition. Such succinct storytelling prevents audiences from getting bored. The imminent threat of the shark keeps quieter moments full of tension and director Jaume Collet-Serra does a wonderful job using that tension to work around the film’s critical flaw: the shark and every other fish look fake.
The film is gorgeous. In some ways, it feels like the cinematographer is cheating because the location and its vibrant colors do most of the work; all they have to do is point the camera and shoot. However, the beautiful scenery clashes with the CGI fish and highlights their obvious lack of authenticity. The Shallows successfully works around this weakness; Lively’s performance in particular plays a major role in selling the life-threatening situation. But the shark’s appearance thwarts the film’s attempts to scare filmgoers. You will hate the shark and be invested in the protagonist’s well-being, but you will not walk out of the film terrified of the water.
The Shallows is an exciting, quick and surprisingly painless film to watch. At times, it may look more like a travel ad, but it will never let you forget about the shark lurking for its next meal.
The Shallows was released June 24, 2016.