Genre: Drama, Horror, Thriller
Directed by: Jaume Collet-Serra
Starring: Blake Lively, Óscar Jaenada, Angelo Jose
Cinema has pitted man against nature to different successes. Some come back, some chop their own arm off and some stay lost forever. But this time it’s the turn of women to take on the merciless force of nature, in this case in the form of an aggressive great white. Blake Lively’s Nancy Adams seeks out the stunning beach her mum visited when she was pregnant with her, in an attempt to re-establish a connect between the two after her long battle with an unknown illness. But heaven soon becomes hell when she paddles too close to a great white’s feeding ground and finds herself stuck on a rock attempting to fight off the fish and make it back to shore.
There is no doubting that The Shallows is a daft B-movie but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be good and for the most part, that’s all Jaume Collet-Serra’s film ever manages to be. Just good. There are moments of truly exceptional chilling horror that, coupled with the score, are entirely engaging which allows the film to come into it’s own. It embraces B-movie tropes and has a lot of fun with it. One standout moment happens off screen, leaving us with only background noise and Lively’s facial expressions to assume what’s happening. It’s smart and completely effective, yet it telegraphs what this film could have been. A slicker, more thought out script would have allowed for an uncomfortable air of horror but its second act suffers from a lack of action and pretty much no build up, sucking any sense of unnerving from its atmosphere.Collet-Serra could have burnt excess fat off the script with more precise exposition. He never manages to create the smart subtleties that J.C. Chandor pulled off in his vastly superior All is Lost, meaning the backstory feels clunky and sloppy. What we are left with is a bunch of face time calls and Instagram-like photos that take up the screen and just look plain ugly. This all culminates to create a film that is too predictable. You’ll manage to figure out the finale just from the first ten minutes, which seriously damages the tension, not to mention the fun, the film works so hard to create.
Visually, the film is as two-handed as the rest of it. Collet-Serra beautifully captures the deep colours of the ocean in stunning aerial shots but once Nancy is riding the waves it feels like a Ripcurl video, which is perfectly fine, but coupled with the smarter, less garish shots, they just don’t work side by side. It’s as if the director is striving for something different from his past offerings but doesn’t care enough to work for it. This is best illustrated in the way he shoots Lively. The camera never leers at its heroine like you might expect, although there are two shots where ColletSerra has a quick peek, but he fumbles when he includes Michael Bay-esque slow motion turn around shots that feel unnecessary and jarring.
While Lively is clearly doing her best – she is surprisingly believable with an air of watchability – she isn’t enough to keep everything together. The moments of sheer horror are brilliant but sadly, there are just not enough to conjure up a consistent feeling of terror, leaving The Shallows a B-movie in which the sum of its parts is greater than its whole.