Lively lead, but plot has no bite
Blake Lively follows in the footsteps of her husband Ryan Reynolds by tackling a – predominantly – single location survivalist thriller.
But where her other half was all on his lonesome in the tense, tight-knit Buried, Lively at least has some other cast members to share time with – including a great white shark out for her blood.
She stars as surfer Nancy, who is trapped 200 yards from shore at a secluded Mexican beach and must use all of her will, smarts and determination to stay clear of her sharptoothed tormentor.
Rightly or wrongly, every shark movie from now until the end of time will be compared with Jaws and The Shallows’ effectively chilling opening scene plays out like a found-footage version of the nighttime kill which raised the curtain on Spielberg’s seminal 1975 classic.
From there, though, it all goes a little wrong for Jaume Collet-Serra’s ocean-set potboiler; perhaps no surprise given the director’s patchy record in the horror-thriller genre (House of Wax, Orphan).
His work behind the camera here is equally hit and miss. He takes us right into the heart of some spectacular waves and his use of arial and underwater shots is impressive.
It’s a pity, then, that he also chooses to shoot cheesy, Baywatch-style slo-mo shots of Lively in action, along with annoying mobile phone footage displayed on screens within the big screen.
Collet-Serra does deserve credit, though, for recognising how to build tension – especially during the anticipation of the shark’s initial assault on Nancy – and also treats us to a couple of grisly, B-movie-perfect kills.
The director isn’t helped by a wonky script provided by screenwriter Anthony Jaswinski, who shows all of his inexperience within the field.
Choosing to saddle Nancy with a seagull buddy (yes, this actually happens) is as unnecessary as it is implausible – seriously, not every person stuck on their own in a movie needs to have a Wilson from Castaway-aping non-human chum.
Nancy also has an irritating habit of saying all of her plans out loud, which treats the audience as too dumb to keep up with what’s going on.
The stricken lead is more unlucky than someone who breaks a mirror while standing under a ladder on Friday the 13th as increasingly questionable scenarios play out to drag the film out to its full 80-minute running time.
Lively does a fine job, however, in a hugely physically-demanding role; it’s not quite Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant, but the Californian has to cling onto a dead whale, stitch wounds with her earrings and swim through a swarm of jellyfish.
Sadly her efforts are largely in vain as The Shallows fails to build on its intriguing premise.
It’s better than Sharknado, though!
Shark attack Blake Lively fights for her life in The Shallows