director Jaume Collet-Serra
Trailers for The Shallows seemed to promised a stripped down shark thriller starring Blake Lively stuck on a rock in a cove, hunted by a shark. And yes, that is the general premise.
She’s a surfer girl, hunting a hidden beach in Mexico, to surf in her mother’s memory a place her mother had surfed when pregnant with her. That he mother has just died of cancer is the motivation for this adventure. Such an isolated beach is the key to the set-up: so all alone, so close to shore, so fucked.
Aspects of this movie work well. Some of the cinematography, Blake Lively herself does well, holding the screen on her own for the most part. The basic set-up. This is a real-world scenario, or could be. And that seems to be where the film had the most opportunity to thrill.
Lively realizes that a cluster of birds on the water, seemingly magical, turn out to be drawn to a whale carcass. And before she has a chance to put two and two together to consider the dangers of being in the water with such a huge chunk of animal fat and protein, a shark starts going for her, forcing her onto the whale and away from her surfboard, eventually onto the one rock above water nearby.
I’m no marine biologist, but this is where the film stops clinging to a reality. A shark might be super happy to much away at a huge pile of floating meat like a whale, but why would it focus on an (albeit bleeding) skinny girl on a rock. Taking queues from other shark movies that anthropomorphize the top predator, this shark just fucking wants her and is willing to do all kinds of illogical things to try to get her, which leads to the most improbable thing in the film, the shark’s ultimate demise.
Maybe this is on me for thinking that the set-up needed more grounding in reality, but that was where I thought it had the most going for it. Coming from director Jaume Collet-Serra, he of House of Wax (2005) and the pretty decent Orphan (2009), I found The Shallows less satisfying than most, but okay for what it was.