Release date: 12th August 2016/Watch the trailer here
2016 has been a year of ‘versus’ films. First there was Batman v Superman, and now, there’s Blake Lively v Shark: or The Shallows. The concept is simple: medical student Nancy (Lively) travels to Mexico to find the idyllic secret beach that her recently deceased mother had always told her about. Once there, she finds a surfer’s paradise – that is, until she is attacked by a great white shark, and suddenly the fact that it is a secret, near-deserted beach becomes a lot less appealing.
The Shallows employs every cliché in the book, but it’s still different enough to feel fresh. 86 minutes of Blake Lively, stranded alone on an island, with a blood-thirsty shark the only thing coming between her and the mere two hundred yards to shore could get stale pretty quickly, but the plot features more than enough twists and turns to keep things interesting.
Credit, too, to Blake Lively, who almost entirely carries the film by herself. The fact that Nancy is a medical student explains away the fact that she has the know-how to keep herself alive for more than twenty-four hours, surviving off raw crab, suturing her wound with a pair of earrings, and even fixing a friendly seagull’s wing in the meantime. It’s all incredibly unbelievable, but Lively has enough charisma for us to forget about the silliness of it all in the hope that Nancy survives.
It doesn’t carry the same level of horror as, say, a home-invasion film might do, because the majority of us don’t have much danger of bumping into a great white shark any time soon (and if we do, The Shallows has provided us with a handy survival guide). Still, there are more tense, edge-of-your-seat scenes than you can count on one hand, and plenty of wince-inducing moments, too – The Shallows certainly doesn’t skimp on the blood and gore.
After a disappointing summer of blockbusters, The Shallows – while not great, but definitely good – is a welcome breath of fresh air. No effects-bloated finales, no large ensemble cast – just Blake Lively, a shark and a patient, atmospheric build-up of tension. The Shallows asks you to suspend your disbelief many, many times, but it never pretends to be anything more than a fun, simple thriller, and that’s OK.