Thursday, 30 June 2016

The Shallows (2016)

The Shallows Movie Poster***This review may contain jaw chomping spoilers ***

After the loss of her mother, medical student Nancy Adams travels to a secluded beach. Hitting the waves Nancy finds herself being stalked by a great white shark.

With a broken surf board lying near by a young boy finds a Go-Pro helmet cam and we get to see a recording of how its owner met their demise. We're then introduced to Nancy Adams (Blake Lively) bouncing around in a vehicle in the middle of nowhere, with the feeling we're in a torture tourist film. However, thankfully this is a killer shark film. Interestingly, director Jaume Collet-Serra (Orphan, Unknown) quirkily shows her social media texts and photos as a wipes on screen. Played by Óscar Jaenada , Carlos the broken English local (who does not kill Nancy) drops the surf board touting tourist off safely at the beach. The perfect body, on the perfect beach, with the most perfect waves and scenery sets up a false sense of security.

It's not long before Nancy encounters some surfers who warn her of a strong current and rocks. It not just abs, bikini and cleavage. Surfing film fans may find the first minutes particularly interesting, its wonderfully shot as they surf the waves off the beautiful beach. In addition Collet-Serra makes full use of the unorthodox novel way (breaking the third wall) of the videophone calls and watch face projection on screen. These shots set up the family dynamics, back-story and elapsing time to hold attention and keep momentum. The proceedings are enhanced by Marco Beltrami’s (World War Z, The Thing 2011) score. But this is all inconsequential as deep down you're waiting for the shark to strike.

After a dolphin appears to break things up with a jump scare, Collet-Serra is wise to get to the great white quite quickly with an excellent shot of the sharks silhouette through a huge wave hot on Nancy's heels like something from a Steve Alten novel. When the water turns red - the survival story beings. The Shallows doesn't present great shakes in term of story, it's a basic don't get eaten tale reminiscent of Open Water (2003) and The Reef (2010), person verse nature. The Shallows offers big budget set ups and thrills with a whale carcass and buoy being bashed by the great white, the effects, bruises and bite makeup are finely done, there's also plenty of blood, severed limbs and bites on display. There's a solid performance from Blake Lively who is focal throughout. But the star of the show is the shark, when it breaks the water it's exceptionally realised, it feels and looks for the most part scarily real. This is not a Syfy channel special effect, this great white is unnerving and frightening.

There are calm before the storm moments where Lively's Nancy befriends a seagull, tends to her wounds, talks to herself, the night time shots are particularly eerie as she silently stalked. Inevitably each chance of rescue is thwarted by the tenacious killer. With a handful of shark attacks littered throughout there’s enough moments to maintain interest. Dehydrated, no food and losing blood writer Anthony Jaswinski's offers part an endurance test story as well as a creature feature. As Nancy goes from salvation points, through the salt water, rock to rock, there's plenty of tension as she times her swims in an attempt to out manoeuvre the shark. The slick editing and Jaswinski's story brings the film full circle playing against expectations and with sleight of hand you're into the unknown, with Nancy's fate up for grabs in the closing act where she faces off with the extremely aggressive predator. With high-tides, jelly fish stings, storms closing in, flare guns, Collet-Serra keeps the thrills coming until the end.

Refreshingly it doesn't rehash Jaws. Shark fans will no doubt get an uneasy and unsettled kick out of some of the elaborate stunt setups. With its small cast, excellent lead, beautiful location cinematography, if you’re into stranded shark films you can't go wrong.

Overall, a fast paced, grounded shark attack film and a recommend bite of entertainment.
The Shallows Movie Poster

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