Sony and everyone else are probably going to compare “The Shallows” to Steven Spielberg’s “Jaws” but oddly enough “The Shallows” is nothing compared to it. In the end after all is said and done, Jaume Collet-Serra’s “The Shallows” is a fairly simple and very tense survival thriller in the vein of “Open Water” and “127 Hours.” Rather than someone stuck in a rock crevice with their arm wedged between rocks, we follow a young surfer whose leg is wounded and is stranded on a rock looking out on to land. She can easily try to swim back to shore, but the predator she’s face, a man eating shark, is so much faster and swifter than she can ever hope to be. Jaume Collet-Serra has really come up in the film world as a director who offers up tense and exciting films. “The Shallows” is very much in his wheelhouse as a film that’s action packed and knuckle biting, also sneaking in contemplative undertones about life and grief.
Blake Lively is very good as Nancy, a young nurse who is still reeling from the painful death of her mother. Spending her time away from work and life, she decides to travel the world and experience new thrills. Deciding to risk it and surf alone in the ocean, she is suddenly attacked by an aggressive shark that chases her on to a rock. Now injured, alone, and stranded yards away from land, Nancy has to fight for her life and figure out if she wants to swim back to land. Meanwhile she garners something of a re-awakening, coming to terms with her own mortality and deciding if she wants to embrace the imminent death in the water, or make one last gasp for life like her mother did. Lively really is the unlikeliest person to carry a movie since most of her roles have been ensembles, but Collet-Serra manages to bring the best out of the actress as she gives a very emotional and gut wrenching turn.
Nancy is drawn enough to where we can empathize with her and want to see her make it back to shore to see another day. Collet-Serra makes nature Nancy’s worst foe as she fights only an miniscule element of it. As she battles with the ravenous shark she has to stave off sun burn, hypothermia, starvation, and dehydration, all the while trying to keep her wits about her. She does this with the odd company of a stray seagull that also hurt itself and is coincidentally stuck on the rock with Nancy. Much like the aforementioned survival dramas, Nancy’s escape is so close, but so absolutely far away, and Collet-Serra keeps us in constant anticipation on how Nancy is going to outwit the shark and make it back to shore. If she makes it back to shore at all, mind you. Collet-Serra gets a little campy every now and then with some over the top gore here and there, but there’s some genuine spirit to the thriller, and a motivating message about discovering the will to live.
The Blu-Ray release comes with three deleted scenes all clocking in at two minutes a piece. “Shooting in the Shallows” is a six minute discussion about the movie, including making the movie, the emphasis on water in the movie, Lively’s physical preparation for the role, and the difference between shooting on location and on stage. “When Sharks Attack” is a seven minute look at a real life shark attack survivor discussing his experience, while experts talk about real shark attacks. “How to Build a Shark” is a seven minute look at creating the shark for the film, including the design, the concept art, and digital effects. Finally, “Finding the Perfect Beach: Lord Howe Island” is a six minute exploration of the location for the film, and how it worked in enhancing the story, along with the various obstacles the filmmakers experienced.