A young woman gets stranded on a rock in the ocean, oh and there’s a shark.
So The Shallows is a movie about an improbably burnished Blake Lively (seriously, she looks like she’s carved from mahogany) going to an isolated beach to get away from it all. She surfs a bit and is promptly stranded on a tiny hunk of rock with a killer shark circling.
That’s pretty much it when it comes to set-up, kicking off a breathless thriller that’s as effective as it is patently ridiculous.
A lot of the effectiveness of the film comes from how spare it is, which is refreshing in a cinema landscape full of multi-part movies and endless ensembles. This is an 86 minute long film that doesn’t need to set up sequels or sell toys, it’s just about surviving.
Blake Lively also proves to be a more than capable leading lady, something she’s rarely done in a film of any scale. She manages to bring a little depth to her character and even some humour, while also being willing to go through the rigours of an action thriller while wearing next to nothing.
Then there’s Spanish director Jaume Collet-Serra. He’s been churning out films at a steady clip since 2005 including the Liam Neeson trio Unknown, Non-Stop and Run All Night.
They’re all pretty forgettable and could have done with some the raw tension and thrills featured in The Shallows, maybe the problem lies more with the leading man?
The whole endeavour is wafer thin but makes the most of a modest budget which only shows in some horrendous face replacement during the early surfing scenes. And the film had made a tidy packet in the States, all but ensuring Sony will be returning to this kind of scenario again in the near future.
The Shallows is far from a classic then but it sets out with a simple aim and pretty much nails the execution. It’s one of the best thrillers of the year, though that says more about the state of the industry than anything else.