The Shallows

A surprisingly thrilling movie, The Shallows stars Blake Lively as an aimless surfer who must fend for her life from a great white shark. The film’s first 20 minutes or so is like any other surfing movie, complete with stunning action shots in a beautiful tropical setting. It starts with her being driven through a dense jungle to a secluded beach in Mexico. Along the journey, she converses with her local driver during the only major speaking part of the film. Through her conversation and a series of photos shown on screen as if on her cell phone, we learn that Lively’s character has always dreamed of visiting this particular beach because of her mother’s personal connection with it. When she finally gets in the water to catch some waves, palpable tension is created because we never know when the shark will inevitably attack. Nearing dusk and all alone, the telltale shark fin is spotted lurking near her and your mind unconsciously hears the theme music from Jaws. Much of the rest of the film, Lively’s character is trapped on a small outcropping of rocks only 200 yards away from the shore. She is forced to muster up the courage to devise a way of escaping her deadly predicament with the limited resources at her disposal. Its focus on a single individual figuring out how to survive reminded me of the movies Castaway and 127 Hours. The film is also obviously reminiscent of the all-time classic shark movie Jaws; in fact, it may very well be the best shark-themed movie released since Spielberg’s 1975 thriller. Like Jaws, a lot of the suspense is created without even showing the shark and even includes underwater shots seemingly from the shark’s perspective. However, there are a few brief shots of the shark actually attacking its victims with some gore. Going into the movie, I was expecting a cheesy B-movie that would not be able to overcome its inherently gimmicky premise of one woman on a rock versus one very hungry great white shark. However, I came away impressed with the film’s successful ability to create a very suspenseful and exhilarating cinematic experience, ultimately transcending its basic shtick.

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