'The Shallows' may be the biggest surprise of the summer
Posted July 7, 2016
THE WATER — This weekend is offering a few releases, including the historical drama “Free State of Jones,” which is currently getting hammered by critics and audiences, “Independence Day: Resurgence,” which is about what we expected, and “The Shallows,” which we weren’t sure either way about.
The news about “Free State of Jones” is disappointing because I was looking forward to that. The 13-year-old version of John fondly remembers “Independence Day” and will go see the sequel, but the studio didn’t offer a screening to press, which is usually a bad sign. So now, we get to “The Shallows.” I wasn’t sure what to think about this heading in and decided I just wanted to be entertained, and this movie delivered.
I think “The Shallows” is going to be one of the biggest surprises of the summer and audiences are going to enjoy this film much more than they thought they would.
Here are a few reasons “The Shallows” delivers:
Everyone knows the name Blake Lively, but it’s been awhile since it’s been super relevant. She had “The Age of Adaline” fairly recently, but that wasn’t a real hit. She’s not a bad actress, but she also hasn’t really been heralded for her acting prowess, either. Lively won’t be receiving an Academy Award nomination for “The Shallows,” but she does a fantastic job as the hunted surfer.
Much of the movie is just Lively, a bird, and a freaking huge shark. Her terror seems genuine, her despair palpable and her resolve inspiring. Don’t take it too far, it’s not the performance of the year, but she does manage to keep your interest in the film and her character throughout the film.
The idea of being stalked by a Great White Shark is terrifying considering you know it’s somewhere in the water, but you can’t tell where. Director Jaume Collet-Serra delivers on making us nervous every time the camera dips under the water. Our knuckles go white and our heart speeds up as we anticipate the appearance of the shark and the next attack.
The terror is played well enough that I got a little on edge every time someone even dipped his or her toes into the tide. People will show up to this movie hoping to get a scare and a bit of an adrenaline rush and I believe they will be pleased with that outcome.
Maybe this makes me a sick person, but for some reason Blake Lively being terrorized by a man-eating shark for 90 minutes is fun. I had a good time at the theater and that’s exactly what I was looking for.
If you’re not the type that thinks it’s fun to get a good scare here and there then you won’t have a ball like I did, but if you’re a weirdo like me, then enjoy.
With all of that said, this still isn’t a phenomenal movie. The dialogue, at times, especially between Lively’s character and her little sister, is cringe-worthy. The movie starts out this way and I was not looking forward to the rest of the movie based off of those conversations. But get through that little rough patch, and things get better.
Something else that's more off-putting than dismembered corpses was some of the CGI. Lively obviously isn’t the surf expert that her character Nancy is, but instead of having a body double shred some waves with the camera avoiding her face, the filmmakers decided to place Lively’s face digitally on the body double. It was obvious and awkward and managed to take me out of the film a few times.
It should be noted, however, that the CGI on the shark (for the most part) is pretty solid and believable.
So I don’t know if I can really knock the movie for this, but some audiences will definitely be bothered.
The whole plot is pretty ridiculous and what happens between Lively and the shark is not based in reality — not even close. If we can suspend reality to watch a billionaire in an iron suit fight a super-soldier created from said billionaire’s father, we can do the same for a fun shark movie.
I was fine to suspend some of that reality to just really enjoy myself at the theater.
Don’t get me wrong; “The Shallows” is no “Jaws” — not by a long a shot. “Jaws” still stands as one of my all-time favorite films, but “The Shallows” is a solid homage and an addition to the canon of films that will make us nervous to get back in the water.
The movie is rated PG-13 for blood images, intense sequences of peril, and brief strong language. There is carnage, bloodshed, scary moments, and Blake Lively in a small bikini. It earns its PG-13 rating and could be argued it’s borderline R. This isn’t a movie for kids, but older teens will likely be OK.
John has been writing about movies, news, sports and pretty much anything awesome for more than five years. John is the co-host of the Flix Junkies podcast and will always entertain you with his stories.