Movie Review: 'The Shallows'

Movie Review: 'The Shallows'

It’s been over 40 years since “Jaws” made us think a little harder about wading out into the ocean. And surfing was just out of the question. But if you’re up for a trip to the beach in the midst of this hot, dry movie season, then this is your ticket.

Let’s face it. The very fit and toned Blake Lively in a tiny bikini could do more for Cross-Fit than any 30-second commercial. If that piques your interest, then consider that it’s her only costume for the entire movie, save for a little wet suit top, giving one pause to consider this: Is all that skin what attracted the great white shark in the first place?

Nancy (Lively) encounters the deadly shark while surfing at a secluded beach in Mexico (with Queensland, Australia, subbing in). She’s come to honor her recently deceased mother, who surfed the beach years before. She hooks up with two surfers for the day, but decides to make one more paddle out as they leave. Bad decision.

She accidentally paddles right up to a dead whale the shark is feeding on. The subsequent attack leaves her stranded on a rock, bleeding from a leg gash, about 200 yards from shore. She knows the high tide in 12 hours will leave her vulnerable to another attack, and the shark shows no signs of leaving as it circles the rock. So she’ll need her wits and some good luck to stay alive.

The ocean can be a harsh place, and writer Anthony Jaswonski throws everything in Nancy’s path: fire coral to scrape herself on, a deadly swarm of jelly fish for her to entangle herself in, and for a sidekick, instead of a volleyball, she gets a wounded sea gull who patiently perches on the little rock isle, keeping her company.

But sooner or later, with or without help, she’s has to get back to shore, and this is where this movie gets as stinky as that bloated leviathan. After swallowing up no less than three people who may or may not be trying to save Nancy, this is still one hungry, pissed-off fish. He pursues Nancy like she was a rival and with more intensity than Steven Spielberg could ever imagine.

Slowly bleeding to death, dehydrated and weak, she sprints for a nearby buoy, which the shark relentlessly attacks, leading to an ending that is as hard to swallow as raw whale blubber. It’s pretty ridiculous, but isn’t that always the problem in a movie like this? How to end it.

For the similar yet fact-based “127 Hours,” James Franco had to cut his own arm off to get help. Nancy doesn’t have that option, but she does have better scenery than the bottom of a narrow canyon, and director Jaume Collet-Serra and cinematographer Flavio Martinez use the natural beauty of the beach and aquamarine ocean to full advantage. In addition to a very weak ending, there are some questionable editing choices that rob some of the earlier scenes, but there is a super scary shot of Nancy surfing a huge wave with the very large silhouette of the shark set against it that will raise the hair on the back of your neck.

For unintentional humor, there is a scene of Nancy, whom we learn is from Galveston, Texas, striding into the Gulf surf of her hometown. The blue-green ocean is as clear and pristine as that Mexican, um, Australian beach. Yes, like the ending of this, some things are just hard to believe.

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