Following the recent death of her mother, surfer Nancy (Blake Lively) is needing time to herself. She decides to travel to Mexico with a friend and find the beach that her mother went to when she found out she was pregnant with Nancy. Arriving at the beach alone, as her friend is nursing a hangover in what seems like the most idyllic place, it’s peaceful and quiet. While out catching the last waves of the day she is attacked by a great white shark only a few hundred yards from the shore, now Nancy must find a way to survive and get back to dry land. In a heart racing and tense film The Shallows will have you on the edge of your seat.
The storyline is simple, a woman gets attacked by a shark while surfing and must get her way back to shore while the shark stalks her, waiting to maul her to death at any opportunity. It’s a battle of wills but one that is played out extremely well. People looking for a complex or more fulfilling plot may be disappointed but the simplicity is what makes the film enjoyable. Simply sit back and feel yourself tense up at various moments as you witness Nancy try and get the better of ferocious animal.
It isn’t a non-stop thriller film, in fact it’s quite slow at the start but it is well produced and directed as you are introduced to the main character. You get to learn a little bit about who she is, her family and why she is where she is. The suspense comes when she enters the water. Knowing what is going to happen but not when, that is what allows this film to shine. It plays directly on fear and even sitting in your seat it engrosses you. Every time Nancy goes into the water you are waiting, wondering will the shark strike.
There are a few scenes that some of the audience who are of the squeamish nature may want to look away. When Nancy is attacked she is bitten and so has to use her medical skills to stem the bleeding. Improvisation is the key here and if there was anything to quibble about it would be that if Nancy wasn’t studying medicine or if it were any other person surfing the likelihood of survival at this point would be nil. So it happens to chance that Nancy is such a person. If you really want to nit-pick this would be it but it’s a minor issue at best.
There is a cameo appearance from a seagull. It appears that Nancy isn’t just the only injured one and both Nancy and her new friend albeit for a brief moment strike a bond that brings a little light heartedness to what is a nerve jangling, tension fuelled movie. It is a useful addition.
The film is basic, with only a handful of characters. Again though this just complements the simplicity of it. Maybe it was budget driven but even so you wouldn’t want anything more. The question is does Nancy survive, does anyone survive, does her feathered friend survive or does the shark win?
In summary, The Shallows is simple yet effective at delivering a film that will see your blood pressure and heart rate increase. Watching Nancy trying to get back to shore and waiting for her to be attacked is gripping. Its enjoyable throughout and a very good film. Sometimes less is more and on this occasion this is exactly what The Shallows delivers.
Review by Jon Elliott