Who would have thought that surfing on your own on a strange beach in a foreign land in shark infested waters could possibly go wrong? A medical student (Blake Lively) thinking of giving up her studies is on vacation in Mexico (the film was actually filmed in Australia) and heads off to a secluded beach that has a personal connection for her. After the only other two local surfers leave she decides to stay in the water, and quickly discovers who is top of the food chain in the area. It becomes clear that she is going to need a bigger surfboard. Hurt but finding temporary sanctuary on a rock a couple of hundred yards off shore, Ms Lively’s character begins a battle of wits with the shark for survival.
This is essentially a “one hander” film (always something of a risk in shark movies) with most of the screen time taken up by Blake Lively, though there are a few peripheral characters that appear briefly. A superficial attempt at a backstory feels rather tacked on, and the focus is on the action sequences. The thrills are well enough filmed, and the close up of the shark shows that CGI technology has advanced considerably since the mechanical shark in Jaws – a device that went wrong so often that the latter movie became nicknamed “Flaws” by its cast. Blake Lively’s teeth look as flawless as the shark’s, and she is suitably athletic, though having to carry the film rather stretches her rather limited acting skills. She is close to being outshone by the acting performance of a seagull with a damaged wing stranded on the same rocks. At 86 minutes running time The Shallows does not outstay its welcome, though even then the plot seems a bit padded, though there one or two genuinely tense moments as the creature from the deep seeks to make a mid morning snack of our heroine. The movie doesn’t develop the main character enough for the audience to really engage with her, and the director could take a look at some classic Hitchcock to learn how to make better use of a restricted physical location to build tension. Still, it is harmless enough popcorn viewing.