Friday, June 24, 2016

The Shallows Review

Are you ready to get your shark on? The Shallows comes our way five days earlier than initially planned as just a few weeks ago it was scheduled for Wednesday the 29th, but for whatever reason Sony decided to bump it up a few days to this weekend. Perhaps Sony started to notice a lack of interest in Independence Day: Resurgence and thought this was a good opportunity or maybe they decided they wanted a little more distance between this movie and The Purge: Election Year. But whatever the reason, we have been blessed with The Shallows a few days early. When I first saw this trailer, I immediately had a huge grin on my face. I love shark movies. I was totally ready to get my shark on even if no one else was. In fact, leading up to this movie, I made sure to re-watch both Jaws and Sharknado, two movies I love for very different reasons. Also, I managed to read no reviews going into this movie. As of Wednesday, there were no reviews on IMDb or on Rotten Tomatoes, so I made the decision to ignore the internet on Thursday going into my showing so I could be completely surprised and it turns out I loved this movie. For some reason I was expecting critics to hate it, but then I checked Rotten Tomatoes after leaving the theater and to my surprise they loved it too! Wahoo!

There's two ways you can make a shark movie. You can go the slow and steady route like Jaws or you can go the in-your-face, over-the-top way like Sharknado, which is why I made sure to watch both of them before going into this movie. And yes, I do love Sharknado for the record. Yes, it's a horrible movie, but that's the point. They purposely made a horrible movie, which is why it was super entertaining if you go in with the right mindset. If you are one that hates Sharknado with a fiery passion, rest at ease. The Shallows goes the Jaws route in terms of style. It's slowly and steadily builds tension throughout the movie and thus when we get our shark attacks, they pack a powerful, terrifying punch. But no, The Shallows is definitely not a carbon copy of Jaws. In fact, in terms of story and theme, it goes complete opposite. Jaws is a movie where the shark attacks on a very crowded beach, sending terror throughout the entire city. The Shallows sees Blake Lively pretty much by herself on a private beach, thus bringing the terror of there being no one there to help her escape this shark. She's also on some beach in Tijuana and speaks very little Spanish, so even when she sees people, she has a hard time communicating. She's just out trying to have a good time surfing by herself and gets stuck in a really bad situation.

Another contrast to Jaws that I found interesting is how both movies look at the shark. Jaws takes the angle that sharks are man-eating monsters, thus feeding off people's fear of sharks in that essence. While this is a great premise for a monster movie like that, we all know that's a bit unrealistic. And we're fine with that. The shark in Jaws seems to hunt people for no apparent reason. In The Shallows, the shark is different. Blake Lively is out surfing and just happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. There is a giant dead whale in the ocean that she stumbles on that has attracted this shark and thus Blake essentially ran right into the shark's dinner plate and gets bitten. As she's trying to escape, she's leaving a trail of blood from her attack that is keeping the shark around. She manages to escape onto a rock, but since the shark is circling her for the whole, there's no way she can get back to land. By no means am I a shark expert, but this felt more realistic to me, which I appreciate. It was a fresh take on the shark genre. Now in real life would the shark stick around and circle her for a day or two and eat everyone that tried to rescue her? Perhaps not. But it would make for an awfully boring movie if the shark just left after a few minutes. We'd just have the Blake Lively surfing show for the entire run time.

It is worth mentioning that this is definitely a survival movie. Most of the movie is Blake Lively stranded on a rock trying to figure out how to get off. If you get bored with survival movies or movies with only one actor or actress for most of the movie, then perhaps this won't be for you. But I dig them. There's a lot of classic survival movies that I think are phenomenal. A few examples that come to me right off the bat are Cast Away, All is Lost, 127 Hours, Life of Pi, and The Martian. Out of those, the two that immediately jump out at me are Cast Away and Life of Pi. Cast Away because that's our classic survival movie and stranded with Blake Lively on the rock is a bird with a broken wing. That bird was totally Blake Lively's Wilson! The movie managed to make you care just as much about the bird as you did Blake Lively, which is impressive. You wanted them both to make it off. I use the Life of Pi comparison because Blake Lively is stranded in the ocean with a dangerous predator. Pi is stuck on a boat with a tiger in the middle of the ocean. Blake Lively is stuck on a rock 200 yards or so from the shore with a shark surrounding her. All this means that The Shallows is like a combination of Jaws, Cast Away, and Life of Pi. A strange mix, but it works well!

To make a successful survival movie, you need a well-written screenplay and direction that keeps the audience engaged for the whole run time and you need a great performance from your main actor or actress. This movie has both. I was never bored in this movie and I give credit to writer Anthony Jaswinski and director Jaume Collet-Serra. Speaking of said director, Jaume Collet-Serra is the guy who directed UnknownNon-Stop, and Run All Night, so he's clearly proven that he can do a tense thriller really well and he delivers yet again on this. As regards to the second part of making a successful survival movie, Blake Lively is amazing in this. And I don't just mean her looks. Yes, she is in a skimpy bikini for practically the whole movie and she wears it well. And yes, they did manage to have slow-motion, close-up undressing scenes when she was getting into her surfer outfit, which I mainly rolled my eyes at, but whatever. I guess Jaws has a skinny-dipping scene to start things off, so we're just being consistent here with our shark movies? Anyways, back on track, Blake Lively is certainly more than just a pretty face. She shows a ton of emotion in the movie and keeps the audience fully engaged with her performance. I was legitimately concerned for her survival and thus I was on the edge of my seat with things got tense.

Speaking of that tension. Yeah. This movie is legitimately terrifying. We get a quick shot of the shark in the opening scene, thus setting the stage for the danger, but then we spend plenty of time building up the tension. And yes, we do have the same type of scenes from Jaws where we go back and forth from seeing things from our characters' points of view to seeing things from the shark's point of view. Plenty of shots with the camera half submerged and plenty of shots under the water looking up at our various characters surfing and thus we're anticipating the shark attacking, which makes things very nerve-racking. And when these attacks do happen, holy fetch does that shark look phenomenal and glorious. The whole time I was wondering what Jaws would've looked like if Steven Spielberg had today's technology to create the shark. Granted, Spielberg and company did a fantastic job with what they had available to them, but 1975 and 2016 are two very different time periods. This shark is incredible and after you see the whole thing jump out of the water for the first time, you're even more terrified because that thing is scary and you really feel for Blake Lively as you realize exactly what she's up against.

Overall, I was very satisfied with this movie. Yes, I'm fairly easy to please when it comes to this genre, but I thought this was a legitimately well-made shark thriller. Sure, we had plenty of our obligatory, slow-motion, eye-candy scenes with Blake Lively in a skimpy bikini for the whole movie, but her performance in this movie was phenomenal and thus I loved her character. I wasn't cheering for her to get eaten. I was cheering for her to survive, thus the movie was super tense. You know you've made a good shark movie when you fear for the safety of your main characters and you want them to survive as opposed to wanting the shark to enjoy a nice snack. In addition to Blake Lively, the direction by Jaume Collet-Serra was fantastic. It's another great thriller by him and thus I definitely have him on my radar and will be looking forward to his future films. He did a great job of building up the intensity of the movie and making sure the movie delivered at just the right moments. The movie is also visually stunning. It's amazing what we can do with technology in creating life-like animals like giant sharks as well as amazing ocean shots, both in and out of water. In a summer full of a surprising amount of duds, I highly recommend you give this a shot. I'm giving The Shallows a solid 8/10.

1 comment:

  1. Great review. I enjoyed this movie way more than I expected to. A solid shark thriller.

    - Zach (