You have to give director Jaume Collet-Serra and the producers of this exploitative shark vs. surfer-woman movie credit — they know how to do it for a price.
You can just imagine the pitch meeting on Columbia Pictures’ The Shallows. “Hey let’s plug a summer release hole with this cheap shark movie where we only have to hire one star, keep it in one location, and bring it in under 90 minutes for maximum showtimes!” And that is what they have done by casting Blake Lively as a young woman who just wants some private alone and surfing time on a deserted Mexican beach (with Australia standing in for Mexico for some reason). Of course it doesn’t take long for her to discover she is not alone with evidence of a shark in the area. Sure enough the movie soon becomes a battle of the wits between the bikinied dynamo Lively and this voraciously hungry fish.
The gimmick is the sheer terror comes from the fact she is right offshore in very shallow see-through water. It’s virtually a shark-hiding-in-plain-sight kind of premise. Her only companion is a sweet injured seagull she names Steven Seagull. As I say in my video review above, this device is similar to the one employed by Tom Hanks in Castaway when he carried on conversations with a volleyball named Wilson. The dialogue is rather sparse. There are a few other human beings seen occasionally in the film, such as a guy driving by in the sand completely oblivious to her cries for help and frantic hand-waving. And there are another couple of dudes who stupidly join her in the water before trouble ensues. There is also a drunk fat guy with whom she does make eye contact, only to see him try to steal her backpack before he also brilliantly enters the water and becomes lunch for Mr. Shark.
Mostly this is just 86 repetitive minutes watching her try to outwit the shark while camped out on a rock. Critics are comparing this to Jaws — they shouldn’t. That movie had a plot and knew what a thriller on the ocean should be like. On the plus side, Lively looks great and is certainly game for all of this action (there were doubles for the surfing sequences), and the shark is entirely credible as, well, the shark. Sully “Steven” Seagull played the Seagull, according to the end credits, and he deserves a shout-out. The rock they sit on is real good too.
The film, which Sony releases today comes from Columbia Pictures which has a proud history of making movies set around the sport of surfing, ranging from the Gidget pictures to Ride The Wild Surf and the Oscar-nominated animated feature Surf’s Up. But the inspiration for The Shallows likely came from an executive who stumbled over the fact that the studio made a mint in 1977 with The Deep, a water-bound saga that became best known for Jackie Bisset’s see-through T-shirt. Make the water (and the script) shallow this time, put our star in a bikini and let ‘er rip. Can’t miss. Producers are Lynn Harris and Matti Leshem.
Do you plan to see The Shallows? Let us know what you think.