A veritable PSA on the dangers of wanderlust, The Shallows (2016) is most disappointing because what it promises is a shark movie to surpass Jaws, but what it delivers is yet another run of the mill thriller, with very little going for it other than a compelling-enough performance from Blake Lively, and a more compelling performance from her co-star, a seagull.
Director Jaume Collet-Serra reportedly ensured roughly 10% of the film was comprised of real footage, with the remainder in a water tank with bluescreens for effects, in order to trick the viewer into believing the setting is real. Unfortunately, weak CGI and repetitiveness brings this illusion to a crashing halt, and while I was immersed in the setting one minute, poor effects would drag me right back out the next.
Surprisingly, the worst CGI in the film is that of the shark. For a director who has done great work with practical effects in the past, this is especially maddening, and it’s hard to be terrified of a shark that would look more appropriate in The Shallows: The Video Game. Not only that, but as the film progresses, the shark becomes less threatening predator and more vindictive enemy à la Deep Blue Sea.
However, The Shallows is not all bad. Clever underwater shots and a solid soundtrack build suspense well, especially throughout the first half of the film. Blake Lively doesn’t deliver a stellar performance, but she does well enough to keep the audience invested in her plight. Still, dialogue is minimal as Lively spends most of the film alone, and there’s only so often she can talk to herself, the seagull (amusingly, not CGI) or the shark before it gets ridiculous. Thankfully, the focus is more on her character development and family motivations rather than her looks, though the character development that we get is fairly standard for the genre.
The Shallows does a good job of building suspense throughout the first half the film, and keeps the audience rooting for the main character. Unfortunately, some time into the second half there is a notable shift from suspenseful to corny, and Blake Lively transitions jarringly from clever and determined survivor into stereotypical heroine. The film is let down overall by poor effects and lack of variation, but this shift is its final downfall, pulling The Shallows down from the lofty heights of Jaws and landing it much closer to Sharknado.