Over 40 years after the release of Jaws (the O.G. killer shark film) The Shallows was released during the summer of 2016. Sharks have been a fascination of b-movies for a long time and became a world-wide sensation in recent years via the purposefully bad Sharknado series. A movie about a shark hunting people isn’t exactly an original premise anymore, so a cliché shark movie will need some kind of huge draw to stand out amongst the crowded genre.
Blake Lively in a bikini is that huge draw that made an uninteresting shark movie a $120 million box office success.
An image of a naked fat white guy laying on top of a dead shark on a boat has invaded the sports world as the crude man has an uncanny resemblance to Florida Gators head football coach Jim McElwain. After reading about McElwain’s public official denial of humping a shark, I wandering the outskirts of the dense forest that is shark pop culture on the internet and saw the image that is featured on this post.
The Shallows is surprisingly a good movie. Nancy Adams (Blake Lively) dropped out of medical school and went on a vacation in Mexico in search of a secret beach her mother surfed 25 years earlier while she was pregnant with Nancy. This adventure to find the secluded surf spot was triggered by her mother’s recent death.
Nancy finds the beach, surfs with some locals, and finds herself in a terrible situation. After deciding to surf one last wave after the locals left, she notices a dead (or dying) hump back whale. As she began paddling back towards the shore, a great white shark who was feeding on the whale knocks her off her board and gravely injures her leg by biting her. Nancy swims to the whale carcass to get out of the water and away from the shark. The refuge on the whale didn’t last long as the shark charged the carcass knocking Nancy off. She desperately swam towards a small patch of rock that is only exposed during high tide and is surrounded by sharp fire coral.
Nancy found herself stranded on that small rock with nowhere to go. Being a medical student, she knew to tie a tourniquet around her leg and to close up her massive leg wound.
The safety of the rock is only temporary as during low tide it would be under water. Nancy uses her intelligence and will to survive to fight against the shark and find a way back to shore.
The Shallows has the b-movie plot, but a lot of money and resources were put into its creation. Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra who is most known for directing a spew of bad Liam Neeson movies (Unknown, Non-Stop, Run All Night) did a good job of making this one actress, one setting movie, feel like an epic. I respect movies that focus on one character in one small setting as the situation at hand and characterization drives the movie, not a complex multi-location plot. Watching this movie felt similar to watching Phone Booth.
The only movie that I have seen Blake Lively in is The Town which I only vaguely remember her as Ben Affleck’s girlfriend. Staring as the character that receives 100% of screen time most of which is alone, is not an easy task. Lively wasn’t awful in her performance but she didn’t exactly blow me away with her acting either. The awkward surf talk like “shooting the tube,” “anything gnarly I should know about?” was clearly foreign coming out of the mouth of Lively.
She did a tremendous job of screaming in pain and shouting frantically which is most important in this movie. Everyone else in the film are nameless faces except for Nancy’s father played by Brett Cullen (The Replacements, Lost).
Much of the exposition involves Nancy looking at her phone and face timing with her family. Collet-Serra was creative in displaying the phone’s screen next to Lively as she looked at it. This allowed the facial expressions of Lively to be seen at the same time as the images on the phone are displayed. This was done is a cool non-invasive manner and added a creative flair to the movie. A countdown to low tide graphic was also used well on the screen throughout the movie.
Much of the CG other than the on-screen hud’s looks early 2000’s bad. For the most part the shark itself look realistic but the other moments involving CG were lacking to say the least.
The Shallows has a stale premise but manages to be a fun thriller.
The rest of this post will contain spoilers.
Other than nameless dudes who are props to get eaten by a shark, there are only two other characters that matter besides Nancy, 1). Blake Lively’s butt and 2). Steven Seagull.
There are so many close up shots of Lively’s butt. I am definitely not complaining but damn, they were not shy and were completely aware of why most people decided to watch this movie.
In her long time spent on the small rock, Nancy had a companion in a seagull who was also injured in the shark attack. Named Steven Seagull by Nancy, the bird suffered a dislocated wing and couldn’t fly. He offered company to the distressed Nancy and served the role as comic relief. On paper the character of Steven Seagull is awful but I smiled every time he appeared on-screen and was stoked to see that he survived the ordeal.
The mediocre CG (dolphins, jelly fish) is disappointing but it didn’t ruin my viewing experience or take me out of the story. Unfortunately lazy special effects did.
Late in the movie while Nancy is on the buoy being attacked by the shark, she climbs to the top of the buoy to get a better shot at the shark with the flare gun. On her way to the top of the buoy, a wide shot catches her severely bruised shoulder.
Then when she arrives at the top of the buoy a close up shows different and frankly shitty make up on her shoulder.
Effects like that always bum me out. How was that not noticed during editing?
One of the moments in the movie that left me clueless was when Nancy killed and ate a little crab. Why did she eat the crab? It wasn’t like she had gone days without eating. This confused me especially since she threw it up immediately.
The go pro camera in the movie served as a strange investigative and found footage tool for the movie. I found it interesting that Nancy and the random little kid just knew how to operate the niche technology.
I am not sure if the Spanish spoken at the beginning of the movie is sub titled (it wasn’t on the shady stream I found online), but my three years of Spanish classes in high school finally paid off. One of the first words that I learned in my Spanish class was embarazada which means pregnant. My teacher used this word as an example that not all Spanish words are just fancy ways of saying English words as embarazada sounds like embarrassing but really means pregnant.
At the beginning of the movie when Nancy is dropped off at the beach by a nice local she looked out at the same horizon that was in the pictures of her mother which confirms she arrived at the right beach. Nancy asks the local if he thinks the rocks on the horizon look like a pregnant women in broken Spanish (which I understood after hearing the word embarazada). This is a subtle connection to the mother of Nancy who surfed the beach while pregnant with Nancy. I thought that was a nice touch.