There is no lack of nature vs mankind films in the world and they tend to come in a couple of types, suspenseful survival films where the protagonist just needs to survive the events, or monster films where the odds are against the protagonist but they need to take on the monster. The Shallows is a film that does not seem like it quite knows where it wants to sit on that scale, building quite a lot of suspense for a long time before its change in style.
The Shallows starts with introducing us to the protagonist Nancy played by Blake Lively, as she is headed to a beach her mother visited while pregnant with her. None of the locals will tell her the name of the pristine beach, though I did wonder why she did not just use google maps as she was using her smartphone. As she arrives it opens to an absolutely stunning inlet with sparkling beautiful water. She then proceeds to go surfing with a couple of strangers already in the water. After the strangers leave and she is surfing alone she is attacked by a shark. Nancy gets to a rock just in time and finds herself being stalked by this shark. With the shoreline is too far away and a buoy being the next closest surface also just out of reach waiting to see what her next step will be is where the film gets tense.
I am frustrated with how the film unravels, because for so long it does a great job of building suspense. Nancy gets a break, then it goes slightly more wrong, then she gets a break and it goes wrong again. This loop works so well and it is so very unfortunate that the film takes a sudden right hand turn at the end. I am as good as anyone for suspending disbelief and not letting facts get in the way of a good time but that ending is such a shift in tone and attitude that it really does finish off the film in a bad way.
Almost the whole film is Blake Lively doing her thing with the occasional minor characters having their short appearances and she is excellent. She does an exceptional job of building that suspense throughout the film and even in the ending that I was less than impressed with, Blake Lively was still great. There were moments where the suspense music seemed to build a little out of place which was strange, but for the most part this is offset by the stunning scenery and underwater shots that make the setting feel beautiful yet desolate.
When push comes to shove, 80% of The Shallows is an excellent suspenseful flick that should have you chomping away at your popcorn through sheer nervousness. I considered it worth seeing just for that 80%, it is just really unfortunate that the ending is such a shift that it left me with an unnecessarily sour taste in my mouth. Never have I wished for the use of a deus ex machina more as even an old cliché would have been a more satisfying way to leave the flick.
Released: August 2016
Genre: Suspense, Thriller
Running Time: 86 minutes
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Starring: Blake Lively, Óscar Jaenada, Angelo Josue Lozano Corzo
Distributed by: Columbia Pictures