I’ve made it quite clear that the ocean (as beautiful as it is) can fuck right off and so can those giant, man-eating fish with chainsaw teeth—don’t get me wrong, they’re amazing creatures no doubt, but I’m totally cool with never seeing one in person… like ever. Just the thought of being stranded in the ocean—bleeding out—while a great white shark is circling, waiting to turn you into man sushi is legit terrifying to me and Jaume Collet-Serra’s The Shallows had me squirming in my seat because of it. In it, a mere 200 yards from shore, surfer Nancy is attacked by a great white shark, with her short journey to safety becoming the ultimate contest of wills.
I gotta say I love the premise of this movie, which is essentially 127 Hours meets Open Water—it’s such a simple concept that you had to wonder how Jaume Collet-Serra was going to approach it seeing as how there’s really only so much you can do with Blake Lively and a rock. And to my surprise, he goes completely off the rails with it; like there’s a lot of bullshit going on in this movie, but at least it’s some really fun bullshit. And the fact that the movie does it all with a straight-face is kind of awesome—Blake Lively actually becomes friends with a seagull and fights a shark for an hour and a half. That shit really happens and it’s not even the weirdest part, like at all. Obviously, I won’t spoil any of it here, but if that sounds even remotely good to you, then you’re probably going to get a kick out The Shallows.
But before it starts down that path, the film does a fantastic job of building a tense atmosphere despite the fact that we all know what’s coming. In doing so, it takes advantage of the audience, using those few quiet moments in the film to create a grueling sense of tension—every shot of her feet dangling in the water is so much more powerful knowing that there’s a giant shark somewhere nearby. And so the film makes great use of that, turning a harmless surf session into a nail-biting nightmare. It’s actually crazy that what starts out so slow and calculated quickly turns into an almost action movie style thriller that rarely ever slows down. It’s certainly a fun movie whether you buy into it or not, so there’s that.
Before I wrap this up, I have to mention Blake Lively, who really holds her own here. For a story that pretty much only gives her a bird, a rock, and a shark to work with, Lively is quite good—she turns in a strong performance that keeps the film engaging even when she’s not fighting a shark or bleeding to death. And although the movie is admittedly a little too goofy at times and some of the CGI is questionable, it has an over-the-top charm to it that, if anything, is plenty entertaining.
How to Build a Shark — This was probably the best special feature on the Blu-ray. It digs into the creation of the film’s monster, the great white, and how they wanted a design based on reality. We get a little taste of everything here, from the shark starting as concept art, becoming a 1/5 scale model, and eventually turning into the CGI beast we see on screen.
Shooting in The Shallows — Jaume Collet-Serra is so talented that he made The Shallows look effortless, a real feat when you see just how difficult it was to shoot the film. What’s great about this feature is that it peels back the layers of the movie, showing us just what went into the film to make it all work.
Finding the Perfect Beach — The beach in The Shallows is just as important as the rest of the film. It had to feel special, and most importantly, it had to be a place that no one had ever seen before. Here it talks about their long search to find the perfect beach, which ended up being a tiny island off the coast of Australia. Of course, this brought with it its own unique challenges because no one had ever shot a film there before.
When Sharks Attack — Although brief, this was a fascinating look at a real-life shark attack as well as some of the ways that can help you avoid it ever happening to you. Good stuff.
Deleted Scenes — There are only three deleted scenes here, none of which are all that exciting, but certainly worth a look if you’re a completist—I dug the deleted scene of Lively chatting it up with the seagull, though.
You can pick up The Shallows on Blu-ray this September 27th.