The Shallows Review: It’s Still Not Safe To Go Back Into the Water

The Shallows isn’t the most original blockbuster, taking the narrative arc of Gravity and slapping it with the villain from Jaws, but its simplicity is refreshing in a summer of sequels with bloated casts and cities being decimated by CGI. The premise is as simple as they come. After her mother’s death, Nancy (Blake Lively) drops out of medical school to find the secret beach her mother went surfing at. After a day of swells, she is attacked by a shark, trapping her on a rock with the skin on her thigh barely still attached to her.

While not exactly Lively’s All is Lost, director Jaume Collet-Sera builds tension as well as the best horror directors out there right now, which more than makes up for Nancy’s obvious and forced introspection. There’s no subtlety here, just Lively, the ocean, and a shark, but that’s enough. Well, and an injured seagull that acts as Nancy’s Wilson.

Between the well-placed jump scares, the film boasts beautiful photography of the location. The camera often lingers far back from Lively on her board, letting the vast ocean consume her in both serenity and fear. So for all its simplicity, The Shallows ends up being a perfectly respectable thriller that barely steps out of place in its remarkably short runtime. It won’t change your life or cinema in any way, but it scratches a certain summer itch the superhero movies and films like Independence Day: Resurgence miss. Jaws is also a simple movie, but the one that started the whole summer blockbuster tradition to begin with. The Shallows reminds us of a time when growing mythologies and alternate timelines didn’t matter, when going to a summer movie was just plain fun. Neither brand of blockbuster movie is necessarily better than the other, but I’m glad a film like The Shallows still has a place and an artist who actually wants to make it well. Grade: B+

By Matt Dougherty

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *