Been a while since we had a good shark flick — the Sharknado franchise aside, of course — and with The Shallows we get a step or two above a good one — that is, a surprisingly taut little 86-minute nail-biter starring Blake Lively and a CGI shark and directed by a guy who has consistently shown he knows how to put the thrill in thrillers.
Lively plays a medical student who heads to the same secluded beach in Mexico her mother went to when she was pregnant with Lively. While out surfing there, she survives an attack by a great white shark, after which she finds herself stranded on an isolated rock some 200 yards from shore and scrambling to outwit the creature and make it back to shore before high tide.
Any yeah-right thoughts that may swim through your head in the battle between human and fish here — e.g. could Lively really survive so long with her kind of wounds? — should make little difference to your enjoyment of the film, as director Jaume Collet-Serra (Orphan, Non-Stop) moves it along so briskly that any illogic all but drowns in its wake.
It helps that Serra not only proves a skillful craftsman of suspense — the buoy sequence alone will have you constantly tense — but keeps things creative, be it how Lively employs flares and jellyfish and even a whale carcass to keep the shark at bay, or in the clever way Serra photographs waves to hide things or people from our, and Lively’s, view.
Serra and his screenwriter also make sure to give us just enough info about Lively’s life to ensure our want for her survival. Lively herself definitely delivers the grueling physical goods — she screamed, I squirmed, you’ll squirm as she crudely sutures her shark-bitten leg — and proves quite solid emotionally, especially when she uses a GoPro to film a message to her family.
As for the shark, well, if it didn’t look quite photorealistic, it looked real enough to scare the bejesus out of me every time it suddenly appeared, lunging at Lively, snapping its mouthful of razor-sharp teeth at her. But the neatest non-human turned out to be a seagull with a broken wing that remains with Lively throughout her ordeal, itself trying to avoid becoming fish food. – [DVD] [Blu-Ray]
DVD Release Date: 9/27/16