The Shallows, directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, is a film with an un-original but still exciting premise within it. However, the film fails to instil any tension, and so much of that is down to the reliance on bad CGI. I was for the most part kept engaged by ‘The Shallows’, but only just. Let’s dive into this review and see where ‘The Shallows’ surfaces.
The story in the film sees Nancy – played by Blake Lively – finally arrive at the secluded beach that her mother once surfed at while she was pregnant with her. Nancy relishes in the chance to escape the mundaneness of real life and surf the waves. Tranquillity is soon torn away as Nancy is attacked by a shark and left stranded/wounded, 200 yards from shore. With the monster circling and the tide slowly rising (which will see her only point of safety sink back under the sea), it is up to Nancy alone, to see that she survives.
I want to start off by talking about the aspect of ‘The Shallows’ that worked for me: and that was Blake Lively (no not like that you perv). Blake Lively, I feel does a really good job of leading this film; she brings a pleasantness to the character, and also a genuineness. But where she finds her stride is in the second and third act of the film. It is here that she brings the intensity and the emotion that is needed for the character. It is Lively who brings you into this film, and it is she who keeps it (for the most part) afloat.
I do however feel that the film could have done a slightly better job of developing Nancy. While Blake Lively does a really good job with what she is given, I would have preferred to have gotten a little more of what made the character tick. There’s certainly the makings of an interesting character, it could have just done with the tiniest bit more. The one thing that is done well is that the film makes you believe that the things that Nancy is pulling off, are things that she actully has the capability of doing. Too often do characters in films like this, achieve things that aren’t set-up as being in their wheelhouse – ‘The Shallows’ does.
Other that the films lead performance and the character delivered, ‘The Shallows’ doesn’t really succeed at its other elements. The biggest problem in the film is the use of CGI, and just how noticeably bad that CGI is. I was constantly being taken out of the film by backgrounds that looked fake or scenes that looked entirely created on a computer. Now that’s not to say that the film overall looks bad; there are definitely some great looking moments in this film, and I was surprised at just how well-shot some of the surfing scenes were in the film. It’s just there are more than a few times when I was distracted by something that was so clearly not real, and it ruined by engagement in that moment.
None of this compares though, to the absolutely terrible looking shark in the film. Obviously it wasn’t possible to use a real shark, but I would have preferred something practical in nature, rather than the cartoony looking thing that was supposed to be stalking Nancy. In the beginning they did a good job of hiding the shark; that way not showing just how un-real it looked. But as the film progresses, and things escalate in the story, they have no real choice but to show it. It’s here that I struggled to stick with the film, and it is here that the most glaring of issues revealed itself…
There is a total lack of tension in ‘The Shallows’. I can’t pinpoint exactly what caused me to be completely un-invested in the film, but the thing I think played the biggest part, was the CGI shark. It looked so silly, and my brain knew it wasn’t real, and thus I couldn’t really fear for the survival of the character. One of the most important things in a film like this is that you fear the thing that is stalking the main character – I didn’t. Being unable to put myself within the events of the film and be scared alongside Nancy, meant I never had that feeling inside where you are rooting for the character to make it to the next point of safety, or be seen by passing help. I just sorta slumped into my seat and passively watched things happen.
I’m in a weird place with this film… I left the cinema fine with what I had watched – I wasn’t wowed by what I had seen, but I also wasn’t annoyed or bored by it. This is one that settles somewhere in the middle for me. So when it comes to recommending it… I’m struggling.
What I’m going to do is have a caveat to my recommendation (‘cause everyone loves a caveat, right?) I’ll recommend ‘The Shallows’, BUT, have this be one that you wait to show up on Netflix/Amazon Prime. This is a good enough film to watch on a quiet night when you don’t have anything else to do. This isn’t a film that will leave much of an impact, but it is one that is an easy enough watch.
What are your thoughts on ‘The Shallows’? Feel free to leave them in the comments down below. If you’re interested in keeping up-to-date on my other ramblings, then why not either follow this blog directly, or follow me over on Twitter – @GavinsTurtle. Thank you for taking any of your time and putting it towards reading my writing, I truly do appreciate it.