The Shallows Review

The Shallows
  • Directing7.5
  • Writing7
  • Acting7

The Shallows is a tense shark thriller, thanks to Blake Lively's likable performance and Jaume Collet-Serra's dazzling filmmaking abilities.


Jaume Collet-Serra‘s The Gallows is the best shark-featured horror film in years, giving audiences both genuine terror and thrills that will surely keep them out of the water throughout the rest of the summer. Blake Lively leads the film with just enough stern will and hope to keep the film afloat, while Collet-Serra’s ability to turn every single shot into a sun-soaked work of art keeps the film at the very least visually engaging. The Shallows may not be 100% original, but it’s definitely suspenseful.

Nancy (Blake Lively) is a strong independent woman that’s looking for the surf of a lifetime as she finds a special beach that her mother once visited. Her goals for the day are simple: forget about the past and ride the waves until sundown.

That plan mostly goes according to plan, until she ends up facing off with a giant killer shark after having accidentally stumbled into its feeding nest.

Now, Nancy must dig deep down inside to find her courage and drive to not only beat this shark, but to survive it.

Jaume Collet-Serra‘s The Shallows has one of the most minimalistic plots to be found in a summer movie, yet it benefits from that mostly baggage-free approach. Sure, the film reveals a bit more about Nancy and her own personal struggles as it progresses, but it never exactly weighs the film down.

The film also jumps right into the water. It spends very little time on setup, which again helps The Shallows feel like a film that hits the ground running and rarely comes up to the surface for some air.

That’s mostly a great thing, because Blake Lively provides a performance that’s likable and knowledgeable, while Collet-Serra captures some killer camerawork.

Together, the two make The Shallows an intriguing film that keeps you frozen in suspense with each and every scene. Watching Nancy dip her toes into the water will instantly send chills up your spine.

The rest of the film is fairly predictable. Several onlookers attempt to help Nancy in her rescue, while she eventually musters up the courage (and smarts) to venture off of her little home away from home aka a rather tiny rock that goes completely under tide at a certain time of day.

Some of Nancy’s logic is extremely questionable, but it can mostly be shrugged off. Heck, even the film takes some goofy turns, but again, it mostly can be shrugged off and exchanged for pure ocean-side enjoyment.

Director Jaume Collet-Serra earns your suspension of disbelief on several occasions, because the man knows how to shoot the shit out of the ocean. I’m serious — The Shallows looks absolutely vast and gorgeous, despite taking place almost entirely within 200 feet.

He puts a ridiculous amount of creativity into each and every frame, which adds up to a satisfying visual feast of saltwater and a bikinied Blake Lively. His camera is definitely not shy when it comes to capturing all of Lively’s beach body and something tells me that most won’t be upset with that fact.

Honestly thought, The Shallows could have been another completely incompetent PG-13 horror film that features a large CGI shark. Yet the film manages to make good use of its rating and provide a shark that has to at least be slightly practical, if not mostly? I know most of the underwater shots were done with CGI, but some of the earlier shark bits definitely look like they were achieved using practical effects.

The film works so well because of the excellent shark effects and because of Lively’s ability to lead an entire film without much help, aside from a seagull named Steven.

Jaume Collet-Serra has managed to capture the terror and suspense of sharks in a way that easily earns The Shallows the title of being a modern day Jaws. Is it as good? That will vary drastically depending on your own taste, but as far as shark films are concerned I’d slap The Shallows rather high up on my list.

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