So this weekend a historical war epic starring Matthew Mcconaughey, an artsy, visually stunning movie from an Academy award nominated director, and a shark movie starring a Gossip Girl all came out.
And the shark movie is getting the best reviews.
What a world.
The Shallows is directed by Jaume Collet-Serra (who’s directed three average Liam Neeson action movies) and stars Blake Lively as a young woman who just wants to spend some time at a beautiful beach and winds up in a twisted mashup of Jaws and Hush, going mano y mano against a great white.
Let’s just get right into this. This is not a Jaws ripoff. It’s not a schlock fest either. It’s an honest to god thriller.
I like Blake Lively. I think she tried her very hardest in last year’s Age of Adaline and saved it from total disaster, but it really wasn’t her moment. This is.
It’s one of those movies that absolutely hinges around one person. Tom Hanks in Castaway, Matt Damon in The Martian, you get the idea. And Lively commands the screen here, whether she’s bantering with a guide in spanglish or convincing us she’s actually stitching her leg together with her necklace. (Which is as painful to watch as it sounds.) She’s got a charisma and charm about her that is also present in Adaline and when she’s on screen, you can’t help but enjoy yourself. I’ll put it in a rather roundabout (and shallow) way:
Look, Blake Lively is an attractive person. And the filmmakers know it. There’s definitely some overuse of slow-mo bikini shots of the star in the early goings of the film. But once she gets on that rock and has to fight for her life, I forgot all about her supermodel-worthy looks. She’s just a damn good actress. The entire cast is awesome. (Half joking. Her only co-star is a seagull named Steve, who hops around and eats crabs and steals your heart. Trust me. It’s the next Wilson.)
Now the movie is by no means perfect. They do a nice job of showing restraint with the CGI shark for most of the movie, and that’s because once you see the full thing the CGI isn’t all that impressive. There’s a couple of moments that look weird that break the illusion, and most of them are in the last act. When Blake is on the rock, you’re sucked into the film’s reality. When she goes into battle on a buoy, things start to get ridiculous.
And here is where the movie is going to divide people. The last act of The Shallows is where it embraces Sharknado a bit more than Jaws and amps up the schlock and B movie factor. Personally, I loved it. I thought it was just a fun thrill ride. But it’s certainly a tonal switch from the fairly gritty and grounded first two thirds. However, schlock aside, any Jaws traditionalist that scoffs at this movie’s finale should remember how the 1979 hit ended. Shark movies are about fun first and foremost, and scares second. And even when The Shallows sacrifices tension for B-movie cheese, it’s still tremendously fun.
As a final note, there are two moments in the movie that don’t bother you while you’re watching the scene, but end up being a problem in retrospect. One scene basically gives away the movie’s ending and another features a plot point that seems to be building to something but ends up getting dropped and not returned to. The script definitely could have used a little further polishing, but rest assured those moments won’t ruin the experience.
If The Shallows were a cookie, it would be a chocolate chip cookie. I think everyone will get some enjoyment from the flick, despite its flaws. It does exactly what it sets out to do, and that is be a satisfying but not groundbreaking or unique cookie. Worth a watch if it’s still in your local theatre.