Ever since Tom Hanks single-handedly led a film with Cast Away in 2001, the ultimate accolade for any actor is to be tasked with a solo movie.
Tom got nominated for an Oscar, as did James Franco after his flawless performance in 127 Hours, and while Blake Lively probably won’t be shown the same admiration, she does a pretty good job in shark movie The Shallows.
After locating the beach her late mum visited while pregnant, medical school dropout Nancy wastes no time getting into her wetsuit and experiencing the tranquility of the water. She quickly crosses paths with two other surfers, and after the pair calls it a day, Nancy decides to stay for one more wave. However, Nancy has unwittingly stumbled into a shark’s feeding ground, and it’s not long before the menacing fish tries to catch another meal.
After being thrown off her surfboard and having a set of shark’s jaws clamp down on her leg, Nancy makes it to a miraculously placed rock, located about 200 yards from the shore. She’s now on shark watch, and has to desperately plan her next move as the tide starts to rise.
The movie’s Wilson (from Cast Away) comes courtesy of a seagull that gets its wing broken during the shark attack. Nancy affectionately calls him Steven Seagull, and even manages to fix his wing, adding some lightness to the predator premise.
Much like original shark flick Jaws, the great white in The Shallows is one smart sea monster. It’s not content with one bite, and even after attacking and chowing down on three other people, it’s still after Nancy.
The medical angle is a nice touch, and the squeamish among you won’t be able to watch when Nancy expertly stitches up her own leg. Director Jaume Collet-Serra also weaves in nods to technology, like text messages and video chats appearing on the screen, which work well in some instances but fall flat at other times.
Blake holds the movie without any trouble, only descending into cheesy bravado during the final shark showdown. Yes, there are some skimpy bikini shots, but the 28-year-old has an awesome body so why not show it off?
The direction and cinematography is breathtaking at times, especially during the surfing scenes prior to the attack, and the use of current music makes the whole idea feel exciting again.
The audience doesn’t get to really see the shark until 55 minutes into the 86 minute runtime, which actually keeps the suspense revved up. It also leaves you to wonder what you’d do in a similar situation. Some of Nancy’s ideas are really clever, while others aren’t, and as it’s just her in the nightmare scenario, it’s easy to try and imagine your own escape plan.
This is not a cinematic classic like Jaws, nor will it land Blake an Oscar nomination, but it’s fun and for the most part realistic. There hasn’t been a shark film for years so not only does it feel fresh in terms of genre, it’s also a totally new take on the premise.
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