Reviewed by: Alexander Malsan
never giving up
Where did CANCER come from? Answer
How did bad things come about? Answer
Why does God allow innocent people to suffer? Answer
What about the issue of suffering? Doesn’t this prove that there is no God and that we are on our own? Answer
Does God feel our pain? Answer
What kind of world would you create? Answer
|Featuring:||Blake Lively … Nancy
Óscar Jaenada … Carlos
Brett Cullen … Father
Sedona Legge … Chloe
|Director:||Jaume Collet-Serra—“Unknown” (2011), “Non-Stop” (2014), “Orphan” (2009)|
Weimaraner Republic Pictures
|Distributor:||TriStar Pictures, a division of Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Group, owned by Sony Pictures Entertainment|
Nancy has dreamed of this day for so long… her trip to the beach. After struggling over her mother’s death (who we learn lost a fight with cancer) and feeling no real purpose to continue medical school, Nancy needs this alone time on the beach.
But it’s not just any beach. This Mexican beach has a history for her family; it is where her mother gave birth to her. So Nancy heads to the beach, zips up her wet suit, and heads out on her surfboard.
All is calm, all is well. Sensing the day is drawing to a close, Nancy decides to head to shore. But as she makes her way, she is attacked underneath by a shark. After struggling to fight it off, Nancy makes her way up onto a rock.
Time is not on Nancy’s side. Her leg is bleeding profusely, the shark is lurking nearby, and no one seems to be coming to her aid. It’s a fight for survival. So much for a nice day at the beach…
“The Shallows” is one of those films that, at first glance, might seem to be attempting to pay homage to “Jaws” (you know the climactic music in the background, the shark lurking in the water, people being eaten by the shark, the tension, etc.). But, about halfway through the film I realized that while “The Shallows” DOES pay homage to the “shark-attack” genre, the emphasis is not so much on Nancy fighting off the shark, or surviving the shark, her bleeding leg, or the natural elements. There is more that Nancy contends with. As previously mentioned, Nancy has lost her mother, as well as the will to continue medical school. Psychologically, she struggles back and forth as to whether to continue to fight to survive and make it back to shore or to simply surrender. There are moments where the film shows her leaning both ways.
It is the psychological nature of this film that provides a sense of connectivity between the audience and Nancy. This is what separates “The Shallows” from “Jaws” or any other shark-attack film. The psychological back and forth Nancy endures (which again, allows for a more focused and a more full sense of character development, as the focus is on ONE character). This is also the psychological suspense as the audience wonders which way things will go. Will Nancy succumb to… the shark or the injuries and natural elements she is contending with? As such, this pays a somewhat obvious, yet appropriate, homage to “Jaws,” as well as to other shark-attack films that attempted to carry or “copy” the “Jaws” legacy.
Violence: The violence might be considered less frequent or slightly less extreme) as compared to other shark-attack films (I’m thinking, again, by “Jaws” standards), there are very disturbing scenes. One involves a man caught by the shark and decapitated; we witness his final moments. Other scenes involve the shark jumping out of the water to catch a surfer in his mouth, and in another scene the shark drags a surfer down into the water where we see massive amounts of blood. Nancy swims jellyfish in an attempt to reach a buoy in the water, as is stung. We watch Nancy use her jewelry to stitch together her leg wound and compress her wound, which results in her screaming several times. The huge, menacing shark makes multiple attempts on Nancy’s life throughout the film.
Sex/Nudity: Mild. Nancy wears a very revealing bikini under her wet suit. We see this before she dresses in her wet suit (and even in her wet suit, there are moments when, as she paddles out to the water, we see some revealing “bottom portion” of the bikini as well as some of her backside. There are also shirtless males.
Language: Language is moderate, with one instance of “f*ck,” “sh*t” (2), OMG (1) and “Oh g*d” (1).
As I said, the central theme of “The Shallows” is survival—the need to fight. In the film, Nancy comes to the realization that her mother, even though she knew the cancer was untreatable and even though the cancer did eventually take her, never did she give up hope. Even her father tells her in a video chat, “We’re fighters.”
Often when things are bleak, it is hard to see the silver lining in certain situations. We think that there is no one who can possibly understand what we’re going through, that we have no purpose and that there is, truly nothing to fight for. We feel, in short, abandoned.
But this is our enemy, Satan, speaking lies to us! He is trying to separate us from God. If he can convince us we have no purpose, he thinks he has succeeded (notice I say “thinks”). But the Lord makes it clear that we DO have a purpose. For it says in Isaiah 43:1…
“But now, this is what the LORD says—he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.”
And in Jeremiah 1:5,
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”
A film like “The Shallows” serves as a reminder regarding the dangers of the ocean, as well as how to properly partake in ocean activities (never swim alone, always swim with a lifeguard on duty, never swim in the dark, etc.) But… do you need to see “The Shallows” in order to be reminded of this? Absolutely not. Even with the commendable take on the shark-attack formula, the violence is still graphic and disturbing to stomach. Please DO NOT bring young children to see this.
This film is for older teens and adults ONLY, if you decide to go. My suggestion, though, is to avoid this film.
Violence: Heavy to Extreme / Profanity: Moderate to Heavy / Sex/Nudity: Moderate
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.
…Blake Lively shark-fighting thriller is superb… With its lean script, clever construction and arresting cinematography, this crass-on-paper bikini movie turns out to be a minor masterpiece…
—Jordan Hoffman, The Guardian (UK)
…“The Shallows” is brisk and engaging, and a great vehicle for Lively. The film has the sort of breathtaking cinematography that will inspire you to visit the ocean. …[3½/4]
—Liz Braun, Postmedia Network
…tense… It is a lean, mean, occasionally brutal survivalist thriller… What it somewhat lacks in sensationalistic horror tropes it makes up for in gritty quasi-realism that becomes surprisingly moving. …
—Scott Mendelson, Forbes
…Lively is in every scene, the camera squarely on her, and she’s fine. She makes us root for Nancy because she’s so tough, so clever. …cinematography is often stunning…
—Bill Goodykoontz, The Arizona Republic
…It’s a genre film that tries to be classier than shark movies tend to be… The PG-13 rating might seem limiting for those expecting the type of gore one normally gets when a shark's involved, but it goes pretty far to push the limit of that rating. …
—Edward Douglas, New York Daily News
…Lively may have been cast primarily for her physique, but she proves a compelling heroine all the same. …As for Collet-Serra, not only does he fail to master the creepy shark’s-eye view, but he even botches that other Spielberg signature: the lingering, wide-eyed reaction shot. …
—Peter Debruge, Variety
…For all its skills, the shark turns out to be a pretty thin hook on which to hang a less-than-90-minute movie. Since “The Shallows” is a star vehicle for the attractive and statuesque Ms. Lively, the suspense here is somewhat circumscribed. …
—Glenn Kenny, The New York Times
…A sub-90 minute, check-your-brain-at-the-ticket-window diversion not unlike 1997’s Deep Blue Sea (minus the show-stopping Samuel L. Jackson death scene). …[B-]
—Chris Nashawaty, Entertainment Weekly
…“Jaws” with false teeth. …Shallow is a mild word for it. Others would be silly, miscalculated, unconvincing, artless, pandering, hokey, ridiculous. Or just plain awful. An old-fashioned shark-attack exploitation picture that willfully disregards all the important lessons of suspense filmmaking passed down from Alfred Hitchcock and, most applicably in this case, Steven Spielberg…
—Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter
…Ultimately, “The Shallows” is a splash of fresh seawater in the face of a dismal summer-movie season. It’s cheesy, but director Jaume Collet-Serra knows his genre thrills and builds layers of suspense and dread, along with some hypnotically beautiful aerial ocean shots. [2½/4]
—Katie Walsh, Tribune News Service