Jaume Collet-Serra’s The Shallows marks the director’s second feature of making claustrophobic thrillers in vast open areas. In Non–Stop with Liam Neeson (he also made Unknown and Run All Night with him), it was the sky but confined to an aircraft. Here it’s the clear blue waters of Mexico but confined to Blake Lively on a wounded whale and a rock and a buoy as a shark terrorizes her.
Lively is Texas med student Nancy, who’s on vacay in our southern neighbor but not for the reasons of most coeds. Her mom has recently passed and she’s seeking out a secluded beach that was special to her. Nancy locates it and it’s certainly gorgeous. It’s also a locale that a great white finds special to it.
And so begins Nancy’s hour and a half battle with the beast. This is largely a one woman show and Ms. Lively provides a sturdy performance. The other humans in the cast appear sparingly. Some are chum. We also get a brief glimpse of our protagonist’s dad and little sister via cell video. Nancy is also joined much of the way by a wounded seagull (she crowns him Steven) and that little bird is her Wilson for awhile.
The backstory involving the deceased mom and family issues isn’t exactly necessary, yet it doesn’t often slow down the momentum. Any shark tale will be compared to the genre’s masterpiece and I’m of course referring to the Sharknado franchise. In all seriousness, The Shallows does take its cue from Jaws in showing its other star rather sparingly. When it does, it looks a bit too CG at times. Still, Lively’s commanding presence as she plays “Shark! Who Goes There?” (I’m sorry) creates just enough suspense to make this recommendable.
Fin. Sorry with the puns again. Sharko Polo? Just watch it. It’s pretty good B movie escapism.
*** (out of four)