‘The Shallows’ is Intense Enough Summer Diversion

The_Shallows_posterAs if getting to be Ryan Reynolds wasn’t reason enough to be jealous of Ryan Reynolds, the dude is married to Blake Lively. So… Relevant to this review? Nah, but it’s worth noting.

“The Shallows” stars Blake Lively as a surfer who gets attacked by a shark and stranded 300 yards from shore, and must use her wits and determination to get to safety before high tide hits. Jaume Collet-Serra directs.

Blake Lively is one of those actors that people never took seriously, mostly because Hollywood was trying to shove her down our throats. She turned in solid work in “The Town” but things like “Savages” and “Green Lantern” made people think she was just another pretty face who couldn’t really act. And while “Shallows” may not be Oscar-level stuff, it does show that Lively can hold her own in a movie that requires more than looks from her.

Lively spends a majority of the film alone on a rock, so much of her performance is squirming at a shark bite on her leg or making sarcastic quips at a seagull. It isn’t a solo performance that is going to blow any minds like Tom Hanks in “Castaway” or even the aforementioned Ryan Reynolds in “Buried,” but it is a gritty one, and she carries the film.

Director Collet-Serra, known best for his Liam Neeson thrillers “Unknown” and “Non-Stop” as well as the criminally underrated horror flick “Orphan,” stages some intense sequences, especially the moments leading up to the initial attack since we all know it’s coming but don’t know how or when. There are times he shows the shark too much which eliminates some of the thrill/anxiety (as “Jaws” taught us, it’s what you can’t see that’s scary) and at times he overuses slow-mo, but overall his direction is tight.

If there’s anything wrong with “The Shallows” it’s that it take a little while to get going (the film is only 86 minutes long so every minute used on set up counts), and then you can feel them stretching it to theatrical length by the climax.

And speaking of the climax, the thing is insane; I would say it jumps the shark, but even I’m not lazy enough to make that pun. It pretty much tosses reality out the window, and some will find it amazing and fun while others will be taken out of the moment and have it taint the rest of the film (think “10 Cloverfield Lane”).

“The Shallows” is a fun enough, intense enough summer B-movie that is harmless enough escapism. Blake Lively gives arguably her best performance to date and the shark attack scenes will make some viewers afraid to go in the water this 4th of July. Will it do to your psyche what “Jaws” did? No, but it still may make you hesitate to go surfing in Mexico anytime soon.

Critics Rating: 6/10

Columbia Pictures

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