The Deathly Shallows, part 1


Every shark movie is inevitably compared (unfavourably) against Spielberg’s classic 1975 tourist-muncher.  And “The Shallows” is no exception.  But while not a 5-Fad classic, this flick comes pretty close by being hugely enjoyable and having a lot going for it.

Waxing lyrically.  The shapely Blake Liveley.
Waxing lyrically. The shapely Blake Liveley.

Blake Lively (“The Age of Adeline“) plays surfer and  trainee doctor Nancy, still grieving the recent death from cancer of her mother and travelling to a remote Mexican surf beach where she has photos of her mother surfing while pregnant with her. While surfing alone, Nancy is attacked a couple of hundred yards from the shore by a Great White and severely injured. She has the choice of refuge of either a low rock or another less palatable floating object. Choosing the rock (at low tide) she is faced with the dilemma of both surviving her injuries and then being rescued before the high tide takes the rock and leaves her to the mercy of the ever circling big-fish.

We're going to need a bigger rock.
We’re going to need a bigger rock.

A big summer blockbuster this is not, with a total cast of eleven (not including a guest appearance of Steven Seagull (as himself)). But the small cast doesn’t make it less gripping, and gripping it most certainly is, with tension building progressively (emphasised periodically by an on-screen clock) with the countdown to high tide.

In the words of the song, “Maybe there’s a shark in the water?”

Blake Lively is an underrated actress and really delivers the goods here. And bearing in mind the problems that Spielberg had with his mechanical shark Bruce (named after Spielberg’s lawyer) the appearance of the shark is limited to where actually needed, with Lively having to fill in the blanks with reaction shots. As your imagination is still far better than any special effects, this is hugely effective for certain sequences.

Pure horror:  here Dad had gone down to the video rental and come back with 'Dirty Grandpa'.
Pure horror: her Dad had gone down to the video rental and come back with ‘Dirty Grandpa’.

The film draws similarities to another interesting entry in the “Jaws” genre – “Open Water 2: Adrift” from 2006. In that film there was the same incessant threat of shark attack combined with the audience frustration that safety (in that case, the deck of their yacht, if only they had let a ladder down) being so near. Here the 200 yards to the shore is shoutable to but still 190 yards too far.

The cinematography (by Flavio Martínez Labiano) is also just beautifully done with some stunning surf and underwater shots that not only highlight Ms Lively’s lithely (sic) figure and her Californian surfing skills, but also the beauty of the ‘Mexican coast’ (actually Lord Howe Island in New South Wales, Australia).

Just to prove that it’s NOT a one-woman cast.

“The Shallows” was written by Anthony Jaswinski and directed by Jaume Collet-Serra (the director of “Non-Stop“, aka Taken 3.5). It comes with a truly impressive BvS quotient of just 5.9%!

So with all of this going for it, you would think that my rating is heading towards at least a 4.5. But all films like this require a satisfying denouement, and unfortunately this is where this one comes off the rails. It is just plain silly and, together with an unnecessary and irritating epilogue scene, diminishes what was on track to be one of the best films of the summer. So here’s the “One Mann’s Movies” solution:

  1. Using Final Cut X, Adobe Premier or your favourite video editing suite, cut out the scene from 115:00 to 116:00 from “Jaws”;
  2. Photoshop Blake Lively’s face onto Roy Scheider’s body.
  3. Insert the finished clip into “The Shallows” at about 82 minutes in.
  4. Enjoy a 5-Fad classic!

This limitation aside, it’s still worth your while hunting it out at a cinema near you, since the fantastic cinematography is best suited to a big screen.

Fad Rating:  FFFF.

Did the film have more or less bite for you?  Please comment below!

(And hats off to the director for putting out a really good teaser trailer that provides the essence of the film but gives none of the key elements of the plot away.  Attached below.)