As we learned in 1975, it’s just not safe to go into the water. Apparently, Nancy (Lively) didn’t get the message because she sets out to partake in some killer waves on a secluded Mexico beach, paying homage to her dead mother, who surfed on that very same beach over 20 years ago. Director Collet-Serra set the stage early that there were no easy escapes for Nancy. This was a secluded beach that was secretive to the locals, she had no car and although everyone knew she was going surfing, no one really knew where her beach was. In fact, Collet-Serra did such a good job of removing an easy rescue for Nancy that before she even stepped in the water, I asked the question “how is she going to get back to her hotel?”
But that wasn’t really important to the movie we’re watching because as we know from the trailer, there are sharks in them waters. Nancy spends a little bit catching waves and having fun, but when the two strangers she meets take off, she discovers the corpse of a dead wale. Aside from the smell and the massive amounts of blood from the wale, the real problem is that she also discovered a giant shark that was feeding on the wale. Quickly, the shark turns his attention towards Nancy and what transpires is a woman versus shark tale, requiring Nancy to use every skill she has to stay alive long enough and hope someone finds her.
The story is just as simple as it sounds, but where THE SHALLOWS succeeds is in its execution. Jaume Collet-Serra made a name for himself with the horror films HOUSE OF WAX and ORPHAN, then jumped up to directing very average Liam Neeson thrillers UNKNOWN, NON-STOP and RUN ALL NIGHT. With THE SHALLOWS, he’s stuck with a beautiful beach setting, a giant shark and Blake Lively. For the most part, Collet-Serra did a fine job of keeping everything grounded in reality and not resorting to cheap horror tricks. Nancy was alone, injured and vulnerable for most of the film and the situation was what it was. I know that sounds simplistic, but that’s the point of the film; the situation is scary enough as-is, so there’s no need to glamorize anything.
Of course, when the camera is on one actress for the entire 86 minute runtime, that actress better be able to carry the film. I think Blake Lively is a beautiful woman, but as far as acting ability, I’ve always thought she was better served as the best friend or in some other supporting role. But she actually does a fine job here. She displayed the horror and emotion you would expect in that situation, but she also carried herself with a confidence that made the audience believe she might make it. That was a key part of THE SHALLOWS and one of the reasons the film was as enjoyable as it was.
So you might be wondering why the average grade and the answer is; this is about as good as a film like this can be. It’s a woman versus animal scenario with a very simple plot, setting, script and less than seven total actors. Collet-Serra delivered the film I think audiences wanted and did a fine job of playing off the shark fear that was established over 40 years ago.
4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: I just finished reviewing WARCRAFT on 4K (click the link to read the review) and although it looked great, it did have some problems. But as I’ve said since the beginning of the 4K format, those big budget films aren’t the films that are going to blow people away. Instead, it’s going to be movies just like this. With a budget of about $17 million, THE SHALLOWS looks beautiful on 4K. A lot of the film features the sandy beach or overhead shots of the ocean, and like in POINT BREAK, that’s where the format really comes through. It looks like THE SHALLOWS was sourced from a 2k master (according to IMDB), which means it was upconverted for this release, but that shouldn’t dissuade you from checking it out. The 4K transfer made me feel like I was at that beach and it actually made the film more realistic and exciting since there was an added depth that was missing on the Blu-ray. For proof, check out the scene where Nancy first goes into the water and the camera follows her as she swims against the tide to get further out. As she goes in and out of the water, the drops of water are explicitly detailed and beautiful. This is a great looking 4K release.
Audio: We get a nice Dolby Atmos track included with great video. The audio isn’t much of a factor in THE SHALLOWS, but for the few scenes where it was used, the effects sounded wonderful.
There are no 4K exclusive special features, but it does include a Blu-ray of the film.