While surfing a secret beach in Mexico, a woman stumbles upon the feeding ground of a large Great White shark.
That’s the gist of The Shallows, an intense survival thriller starring Blake Lively as Nancy Adams, a medical student looking for solace as she grieves the recent loss of her mother.
Nancy escapes to a remote Mexican beach – the same spot her mother surfed in 1991 – as a way of coping while she ponders how to move forward, and the possibility of abandoning her medical education. Everything goes well at first, especially for a woman vacationing alone and far removed from tourist-friendly resorts. The secret location is gorgeous. It’s also a surfer’s dream, featuring crystal clear, relatively shallow water (hence the title) and a strong tide that pulls in spectacular waves.
Then Nancy spots something in the distance that piques her curiosity. As she paddles toward it, she discovers the corpse of a small whale – and the particularly large Great White shark actively feeding on it. Attracted by her splashing, the shark moves in for the attack.
Badly wounded and now stranded two hundred yards from shore, Nancy finds herself in a battle of wills with the hungry Great White. Cutoff from the safety of the beach and with no help in sight, she must figure out a way to outwit a force of nature that holds a vicious home field advantage.
The Shallows is easily the best killer shark movie since JAWS, and that’s because it’s not about the shark. It’s about Nancy Adams trying to save herself, and there just happens to be a big fucking shark in her way.
Blake Lively does a great job pulling off the raw physicality of the role while at the same time revealing a woman who is as flawed as she is fierce. In other words, she is a real, believable character in an equally believable situation. Yes, this is a movie. As in all movies, there is some suspension of disbelief, but it never removes you from the action, which is fast-paced, edge-of-your-seat and completely thrilling from start to finish.
Blake Lively’s shark co-star is terrific as well. Unlike JAWS, this Great White is not a mechanical creation of the special effects department. As clunky as the beloved “Bruce” may have appeared in Spielberg’s classic, those old practical effects held a certain charm that CGI can never live up to.
Not surprisingly, The Shallows big fish is entirely CGI, borne of software and hard drives. Still, CGI is much better suited to recreate the Great White’s speed and power, which meshes perfectly with the tone of this film. In some shots, the technology falls flat. What works best are the close ups, where the CGI perfectly captures the crushing power of the bite and the ferocity in the big fish’s eyes.
The Shallows is currently available to rent at your nearest Redbox and streaming on Amazon Video. Don’t let this one get away, Deadies!