The Shallows almost immediately lost me when the main character apologized for being an American. It remained iffy with some out-of-place choppy editing (intermittent slo-mo) in an early surfing sequence — just jarringly awful. However, the film quickly recomposed itself to be visually stunning and suspenseful.
Blake Lively is returning to the beach where her mother went when she was pregnant with Blake. Having not seen Touristas, Hostel, The Ruins, Jaws or basically any movie ever, Blake goes to the remote beach alone. She does not even have a car which might be spotted or reported missing.
She meets up with two locals and they ride the waves. The landscape is beautiful and the surfing — awful editing aside — is great. There is even a fun shot of the shark inside of the cresting wave. I don’t know if it is aquatically accurate, but it is a nice visual.
The guys leave, but she just has to get one last ride in. That is when the trouble starts. Without recapping the obvious, she is attacked by a shark. However, the story does go places I’ve never seen and is never boring. There is a B-story with her father that seems extraneous, but does give texture and closure to the story. It might be a little perfunctory and cliche, but there’s a reason some things become perfunctory and cliche — they work.
Is the ending credible? Is that even an issue? Were the endings of any of the Jaws movies credible, even the first one? Only the book had a credible ending and that was a complete bore.
This is Gravity in the water, but I don’t mean that as an insult. A woman is alone, her companions killed, surrounded by a hostile unbreathable environment, can see home but can’t get to it, makes her way to “islands” of momentary safety grasping at any opportunity to survive, she wins by using her wits, and ends up exhausted on a beach.
Bonus points: Blake Lively’s character is a woman rather than the usual immature Hollywood little girl, she is a medical student, she surfs, she clearly takes care of herself, she helped raise her little sister after their mother died, she is confident enough to go to this remote beach alone, she improvises sutures and bandages on a big-ass shark bite, she survives while the men die, she defeats the shark, and after her ordeal, she returns to surfing.
But some delicate snowflakes are saying it is exploitation because she wears a bikini to the beach, and applies sunscreen.