On the surface The Shallows looks like it will be a predictable fusion of Jaws, Soul Surfer and Blue Crush. A surfer girl heads somewhere remote and gets chomped by a vengeful apex predator.
However, we have an inkling, even before watching The Shallows that Nancy Adams (played by Blake Lively) will survive.
From the opening scene to the last, Blake is wonderful. She is the ultimate surfer girl: independent, resourceful, and dead set on getting her waves. I’ve never seen a movie in which a woman who has been so severely injured still manages to look delicious. Yet the thing about Blake is that she doesn’t flaunt her sexuality. Nancy Adams is first and foremost a surfer. She doesn’t flirt with the boys, or use her looks to get her favours in the water.
Beyond the obvious aesthetic appeal, Blake manages to weave The Shallows story singlehandedly, with few supporting actors and very little shared screen time. She befriends a seagull, she befriends a couple of local surfers, she has a chat with her sister and dad on the phone and besides that it’s just her and… you know who.
From a surfing perspective, The Shallows is not bad. It’s a bit strange how she turns up at the idyllic beach with no name and the ocean is about as flat as you can get. She looks delighted. As she paddles out, from nowhere, head high waves begin grinding towards shore. These close-up waves are breaking left, right, sending plumes of spray up into the heavens. Then the wide shots show perfect, flat holiday beach. But lets not be picky. For Hollywood it’s pretty good, and the surfing action is quality.
The Shallows has plenty of back story to give it depth, and plenty of tension to keep you engaged. That shark… it’s one bad-ass, spiteful beast. Well done if you make it through the film without flinching.
While movies like Blue Crush inspired a generation of girl surfers to buy Alana Blanchard g-strings and paddle out into the line-up, The Shallows will do the exact opposite.