“The Shallows” (2016): Blake Lively Goes Toe-to-Fin Against a Hungry Great White

Alright Grue-Believers, I am close to finishing my last class for my Master’s degree, so I decided to give myself a breather and head to the cinema. Given that, 1) I love stuff about sharks, and 2) the latest film from Jaume Collet-Serra, The Shallows, has been called the “best shark film since Jaws“, it was easy to decide which movie to hit. And given how much I miss you all, I knew I had to give you my impressions. So if you are like me, and don’t like to read reviews before you see the movie, skip to the bottom of the page and see what I give it on the Thug Scale. Then, after you’ve seen The Shallows — and you must GO SEE THIS FILM – come back, read my review and comment away. The Thug loves to hear the opinions of the Grue-Believers.

Nancy (Blake Lively) in Columbia Pictures’ SHALLOWS.

The script, from Anthony Jaswinski, pits Nancy (Blake Lively) against a big, hungry, great white shark off a remote beach in Mexico. I thought to myself as I walked down the aisle to claim my seat, “How will Deadpool’s wife fare against this killing machine?” For those of you not in the know, Blake is married to People magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive,” Wade Wilson himself, Ryan Reynolds. Let’s wax our boards, dive in and catch some waves.

The shark makes his first appearance in Columbia Pictures’ THE SHALLOWS

As the trailers begin, the first thing I notice is that most of the audience are adolescent males who undoubtedly came to see Ms. Lively in a bikini for 90 minutes. What they get is  a great film…with Ms. Lively in a bikini for 90 minutes. The cinematography in The Shallows is  a work of art. Flavio Martínez Labiano takes full advantage of the exquisite location and water depths giving the film a terrific color pallet. The direction from Jaume Collet-Serra (House of Wax, Orphan, Non-Stop) is brilliant. I loved the overhead shot of the Nancy trapped on the reef as the shark circles by. Intense. I feel confident in saying this is his best film yet.

Blake Lively is stranded in Columbia Pictures’ THE SHALLOWS

Jaws casts an enormous shadow over every shark movie that has ever attempted to duplicate the sheer suspense and terror it brought on audiences back on June 20, 1975. The Stephen Spielberg classic still holds up to this day. Modern films are able to take advantage of improved special effects and CGI. Ironically, this has hurt a lot of these films.  While the film is by no means Jaws, I may have to agree with the statement that The Shallows is the best shark film since Jaws.

Nancy (Blake Lively) in Columbia Pictures' SHALLOWS.
Nancy (Blake Lively) in Columbia Pictures’ SHALLOWS.

The Shallows  begins with a little boy finding a cracked helmet washed ashore on a sandy beach. Attached to the helmet is a GoPro camera. When he watches the video, he observes a shark attack. The title comes to the screen and we move back in time as  Nancy travels to a secret beach her now deceased mother had told her about. Carlos (Oscar Jaenada), a local on the island, is  nice enough to give Nancy a ride to the remote paradise. Unfortunately, Nancy ends up pulling a solo mission because her friend remains  back at the hotel battling the “Irish Flu.” That’s a hangover, kiddies. The scenery at the unnamed beach is breathtaking. For some strange reason, no one will say the name of the beach.

Nancy (Blake Lively) in Columbia Pictures' THE SHALLOWS.
Nancy (Blake Lively) in Columbia Pictures’ THE SHALLOWS.

Nancy wastes little time, waxing her board and heading for the water. She meets two other locals who are also hitting the waves. After a few great surf scenes with excellent camera work above and below the water, she heads for the shore. She pulls out her phone  to face-time her little sister Chloe (Sedona Legge) sharing shots of the beach and its landmarks  until  her father (Brett Cullen) takes the phone from Chloe. We learn that  Nancy is in medical school and is considering dropping out. Her time at the island is intended to help her sort things out as she deals with the loss of her mother. Dad pleads with Nancy to not give up telling her Mom would have wanted her to fight through it and finish school. Nancy tells Dad she loves him, hangs up and hits the water. BIG MISTAKE!

Blake Lively and Steven Seagull in Columbia Pictures’ THE SHALLOWS

Without giving the whole story away – because you really  must GO SEE THIS FILM –  the shark shows up on her last run. Scenes involve a big dead whale, painful fire coral, temporary refuge on a rock, high and low tides and a friendly little bird Nancy aptly names Steven Seagull. This seagull was a much welcomed  bit of comic relief and serves as a bridge to sanity as Nancy  fights to stay alive. Because I care, my friends, I will also tell you this: If and when you ever have to apply a tourniquet, don’t be like Nancy! Remember that you are deciding that your patient is going to likely lose a limb, especially if the tourniquet is on for a significant period of time. Go see the movie and you’ll see what I mean.

The shark attacks in Columbia Pictures’ THE SHALLOWS

The Shallows contains very little gore at all. The director leaves a lot of the horror elements up to camera angles, sound effects and great  acting. One stand-out scene, among many, is a scene where Nancy has to swim through a school of bio-luminescent man o’ war to escape the great white. Despite the use of CGI, this scene looks incredibly realistic and is beautiful. By the end of the film, Nancy must choose whether to keep fighting or give up. Will she race to a nearby buoy as the tide rises once again or will she give up and become chum? If you’d like to know the answer, like I said before, GO SEE THIS FILM! The Shallows is that good!

Blake Lively in in Columbia Pictures’ THE SHALLOWS

As I stated earlier, this film is not Jaws. But, to be fair, no film ever will be. What The Shallows does bring is edge-of-your-seat intensity and plenty of well-earned jump scares. I literally jumped more in this film than I did for The Conjuring 2. It was so tense, my wife was having a running, one-sided conversation with Blake Lively throughout the entire film. The Shallows is by no means a perfect film and the CGI does hurt it at certain points. However, the flaws are overshadowed by the film’s sheer intensity. Bravo, Jaume Collet-Serra! You will now be known for The Shallows and what a great film it is. By the way, Ms. Lively would most definitely hold her own against Deadpool. Oh, and if I forgot to mention it, GO SEE THIS FILM!

The Shallows 4.8 out of 5 stars (4.8 / 5) on the Thug Meter

JJ Fitt
Joe lives in the coal region of Northeastern PA with his beautiful wife Mary and their French Bulldogs Watson and Xander. He's a huge fan of all things horror and can't explain why especially since he was afraid of everything as a kid. He co-hosts the Indie Infestation podcast which gives a platform for those involved in the indie horror scene to get their name and projects out there. When he's not working he is usually watching the latest horror movie or show, at the gym with his wife or taking in a sporting event, Eagles! His all time favorite horror movie is the original Halloween, still effective to this day. Hit him up on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook or drop an email, let him know what's awesome.