Friday, June 24, 2016
The Shallows Review
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.
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 Unknown, Non-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.
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.