Use of the environment and some impressive tension building set pieces really help set The Shallows apart from the traditional survivor thriller – it seems a shame then that a poor final act doesn’t quite give it the end it deserves.
Surfer and trainee physician, Nancy, is taken to her limits after inadvertently swimming into the feeding grounds of one of the oceans greatest predators. Having to battle the harsh environment, the changing face of the sea and the constant threat of her fishy enemy, it’s a case of do or die in the center of a Mexican paradise.
From a direction perspective, The Shallows is one part thriller to equal parts action. The beginning is well paced and throws you straight in, reminiscent of director Jaume Collet-Serra’s previous projects. With some well thought out set pieces, we are not only introduced to the main character quickly but we are also given motive without the needless back story. The middle follows suit, building a suitable amount of tension while still progressing in a meaningful way. It’s at this stage where the well balanced screenplay plays to its strengths most, splitting the plot nicely with scenes both in and out the water.
With such a strong opening, it seems rather heartbreaking that the final act is such a letdown. Though most of the elements that credit the first two acts are present, the ultimate finale and subsequent follow up scenes feel out of place given the tone the film maker strives for. Instead of allowing the audience to experience the fallout from the ever-growing atmosphere, the plot strips back the well crafted veil and leaves the final act feeling like an over the top action film than a clever story of survival. At this stage, the bonds that connect the audience with the protagonist are immediately cut, taking the audience away from what makes the film so intriguing in the first place.
While Blake Lively probably wasn’t the first choice for the lead, praise has to be given here as her overall performance is fairly strong. Going back to basics has definitely helped with the actress being forced out of her comfort zone and thrown straight into the deep end.
Overall, The Shallows is a decent production. Although the ending is a little disappointing, the skills used to build tension paired with a worthy performance from the lead actress make this more than capable of holding the audience attention for its allotted time. This definitely keeps its head above water – 3.5 our of 5.