Monday, 22 August 2016

Film Review: The Shallows

Blake Lively in a bikini and a man-eating shark - what's not to like about The Shallows?

Having already proved himself a dab hand at exciting genre films with a trilogy of Liam Neeson action flicks, Spanish director Jaume Collet-Serra turns his attention to the shark subgenre with The Shallows.

Lively plays Nancy, a med student in her mid-twenties who travels to a secluded beach in Mexico that holds special meaning to her family. Enjoying the surf and the pristine sand, Nancy finds herself stranded on a rock offshore when a great white shark enters the shallows and takes a big chunk out of her leg.

At just 87 minutes long, The Shallows is the kind of film that gets in, gets the job done and gets out. It doesn't overstay its welcome. Its screenplay is a no frills affair that doesn't waste time getting to the stuff that we want to see - namely, a fucking massive shark stalking one rather attractive surfer.

Nancy gets a brief backstory that fleshes out her character; it's enough to make us care for her and informs some of her knowledge and actions throughout her arc. Lively's performance is fantastic too; her mixture of grim determination, humour and pain is particularly impressive given she spends most of the film acting alongside a seagull.

Collet-Serra is great behind the camera; he doesn't dress the film up as anything more than it is, ensuring that the playful, popcorn B-movie tone is preserved through kinetic, inventive camerawork and stunning cinematography. Slo-mo is slightly overused but it didn't bother me too much.

The CGI is impressive stuff too; the third act slightly jumps the shark (if you'll pardon the pun), but it's the slow-burn first half that works best. It's the journey, not the destination after all. Effective sound design goes a long way to creating this thick envelope of tension too.

The Verdict: 8/10

If I was grading The Shallows purely on the loveliness of Blake Lively's butt, it'd get a 10/10 without a second thought. However, competent film criticism has to confirm to higher standards and as such, we'll settle on just above an 8. The Shallows is devilishly simple and taut thriller, with a confident lead performance from Lively supported by gorgeous cinematography, effective sound design and brilliant direction from Collet-Serra. It's the perfect Sunday matinee film that warrants repeat viewings.

The Shallows is in cinemas across Australia now

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