After the death of her mother, Nancy Allen (Blake Lively) is trying to find that special beach that was so important to her mother. With help from a local, Carlos (Óscar Jaenada), she arrives at the secluded beach. It’s a perfect place to surf, beautiful, tropical and almost empty, that is until she’s attacked by a severely pissed off Great White Shark. Unlike The Reef where the shark’s victims are attacked way out to sea, Nancy is tantalising close to shore but between her and the rock she clambered on, there is a shark ready to tear her apart should she swim to safety.
Blake Lively felt inspired to follow in her husband’s (Ryan Reynolds) footsteps by appearing in a film that’s mostly a one-man show (or this case one-woman show). These types of films are a true test of an actor’s credentials as they have to act without any supporting players. Like Reynolds this is a test Lively passes with flying colours, stranded on a rock with only a seagull (named Steven) for company, Lively excellently portrays her character's desperation and her desperate plight. It’s a performance that requires a great deal of physicality and an ability to show what’s happening rather than just stating it aloud.
Unfortunately, though the film’s script seems to undermine this and Lively’s abilities by making Nancy say things to herself such as "he’s still here" (when referring to the shark) or explaining to the audience that she has to get the blood flowing through her body, though with the latter you could argue she’s doing that to reassure herself as though she was one of her patients. Screenwriter Anthony Jaswinski’s decision to spoon feed fairly basic information does more to take you out of the film than any dodgy GCI shark possibly could.
Still Blake Lively does a commendable job anchoring the film when she’s only sharing a screen with a seagull (in a star making role) and a shark, which is impressive enough to be convincing. Director Jaume Collet-Serra doesn’t take a leaf from Jaws’ book by keeping the shark hidden for most the film as Jaume Collet-Serra has no qualms in showing the beast in all its glory. Thankfully, the GCI is decent enough for this not to be a horrible misstep and showing the sheer size of creature adds to the shark’s magnitude (the shots looking down reveal the shark’s impressive size brilliantly) but does take away an element of shock and awe when it’s introduced so early on the film.
The Shallows is also a well-directed film, the multiple camera angles are well spliced together with the underwater shots being greatly similar to that of the 1976 classic, Jaws. The film’s camerawork, where its bobbing on the surface, does a terrific job at immersing the audience into the action. The film excels when Nancy battles against nature, and the constant setbacks and bad luck that Nancy has to endure becomes tiring and exasperating (in a good away). The film, however, stumbles when it tries to add human drama to the fray, it just isn’t fleshed out well enough to be an engaging part of the story.