At the Movies 2016: The Shallows

the-shallowsThe Shallows
USA 2016
Written by Jaume Collet-Serra
Directed by Anthony Jaswinski
Watched on 03.09.2016

“The Shallows” wasn’t quite the highlight that I hoped for, but it nevertheless was an enjoyable entry into the ever-growing list of shark-themed horror thrillers. The setup reminded me a little bit of “Open Water”, another very good movie that, for me, suffered from the fact that they didn’t stay with the stranded divers all the time (whenever they switched to what happens of the island, all of the tension evaporated). That, at least, “The Shallows” gets right. As soon as we meet Nancy for the first time, we stick with her for the rest of the movie, never deviating too far from her plight.

———————————— SPOILERS AHEAD ————————————

Which already brings us to one of the major problems of “The Shallows”: Since there’s only one character who’s in danger, you can pretty much rule out that she’s going to die, say, in the middle of the movie. I wasn’t sure if she’s going to survive up until the end, but whenever the movie tried to build some tension in between, it didn’t really work for me. Another troublesome aspect of her being stranded all alone on that little rock was that in order to let the audience in on her thoughts and feelings, as well as (over-)explain what she was doing, the movie had to rely on her talking to herself, which occasionally felt rather forced (and patronizing). Same can be said about a couple of scenes, like with the drunk guy, which had to go the way they did so that the movie could continue. And what was that all about that super-secret beach, and how no one wanted to tell her what it’s called? To conclude my criticism of the movie, I could have done without her clichéd back-story and how that tied into the finale. Could we maybe for once have just a regular guy/gal in such a (modern) movie, who doesn’t learn an important life lesson from his/her experience, or uses it to help them get over a tragic event? Thank you.

Overall, though, I had a good time with it. With a running time of roughly 80 minutes (without credits), it doesn’t overstay its welcome (even though you might have been able to trim another 10-15 minutes without losing anything essential). It has a really neat concept, and sticks with it, but doesn’t drag it out for too long. Blake Lively, which so far I haven’t seen in too many movies – and when I did, she didn’t exactly blow me away – gives a really good performance here, perfectly capturing Nancy’s despair as well as her determination. Jaume Collet-Serra did a really good job directing the movie, giving us many impressive landscape-shots as well as a couple of really tense moments. I also quite liked the way they inserted the videos, text messages etc. Yes, it’s hardly new – the first said presentation that I can remember was in “Sherlock”, and since then, it really took off – but I really like it, since it makes good use of movies as a visual medium. Apart from a couple of moments (like the fire), the CGI-shark was well-made and believable. And I for one loved the fact that the closer we got to the finale, the sillier and over the top the movie got, with the shark’s death a particular standout. I get if it was just a tad too ridiculous for some, especially since the rest of the movie was mostly down-to-earth, but I loved it. However, the best part of the movie, hands down, was Steven Seagull, who really stole the show. Overall, I may have expected a little bit more – not least because of some movie sites hyping this as “the best shark movie since ‘Jaws'” (which, I feel, is highly debatable) – but nevertheless was quite pleased with it.


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