A Nail Biter | Review of ‘The Shallows’


By Cynthia Ayala

The Shallows starring Blake Lively
Columbia Pictures
Image Credit: IMDB

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.

—IMDB

As a Jaws fan, I have to say that I was impressed with this film because the story, it was realistic…for the most part. The film follows Blake Lively as Nancy Adams, a young woman who has taken a trip to a place where her recently deceased mother went. This allows for the audience to get to know the character, giving the viewer someone to root for. She’s alone in a place that is off the map, a place known only to the locals. And she is trapped after venturing into a sharks’ feeding ground. Now sharks are aggressive creatures; they attack if they think you’re food and if you’re trespassing.

Now, thankfully great whites are less aggressive than a bull shark, but with their food diminishing in the ocean, it’s very believable that if they bite someone, they are going to be attracted by the blood that has someone mingled with the blood of their recent kill. That is the realism of this film that trumps the original Jaws, which only villainized a sea creature and turned into a vicious monster. That’s not to say that this movie didn’t do that. That’s where the “for the most part” comes in. Attacking Lively’s character is believable, but when it comes to others venturing into the ocean to try and save her, that’s where the film becomes less realistic only because it’s obvious that the shark is thinking about stranding her. Then again, they are intruding on its hunting. Nevertheless, the realism that was never in Jaws exists within this film.

The writers of this film, and the director, they knew just how to build tension. This movie was done very well because it uses visuals to allow the movie to speak for the character, define who Nancy is, and where she is coming from. It says a lot without speaking allowing the film to move at a steady pace so that the tension continues to rise. The tension doesn’t let up in the movie, keeping the audience trapped in their seats until the very end. That is the making of a good movie. And because the viewer gets to know Nancy, the tension only rises higher because the audience has a stake in this film and the character.

This film is an excellent example of good filmmaking and writing. The story is solid and mostly realistic, but moreover, Lively’s character is a smart character. Nancy uses the ocean to her advantage, she thinks, plans, and doesn’t just react to the shark. This is a film about survival, about her strength and her inability to give up, to tap into who her mother was and own that strength. This leads to depth for the story, and for the writers it was remarkable how they kept the focus of the film narrow, the tension rising and all of that combined makes it a good movie.

Yes, this is not a 100% accurate portrayal of a shark, but it’s not far-fetched either, and that’s key when venturing into the “shark movies” niche. You want the movie to grab you, not make you laugh, and this film nails it. Lively was a perfect choice for this film because she brought the character to life. And again, Lively coupled with the tension and realism, makes this a stand out film. (★★★☆ | A)


—Film Credits—

Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra

Screenplay by Anthony Jaswinski

Starring: Blake LivelyÓscar Jaenada, Brett Cullen, Sedona LeggeAngelo Jose 

Rating | Length | Genre: PG-13 | 1 hr 27 min | Drama, Thriller, Horror

Distributed by Columbia Pictures

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