As if all the promotional materials are not enough to stress out the horror that is The Shallows, the film begins with a flash-forward where a young boy finds a GoPro camera on the beach and learns a terrifying shark attack through the latest footage. It’s a good cold open that follows the usual scenes where the story builds up through the protagonist’s back story: the happy part where everyone is smiling and bad omens lingers. There even go the lively soundtracks used either to stretch out the narrative or merely to necessitate the contrast.
In all fairness to Jaume Collet-Serra’s latest feature, everything is compacted to an hour and a half of Blake Lively, gorgeous and all, then wounded and exhausted, then back to being gorgeous (save for that horrendous scar).
Lively plays med student Nancy who needs some time alone and decides to seek out the favorite Mexican beach of her late mother. Thanks to her smartphone and the believable phone signal in the area, we get to be acquainted with her father who is against her plan to drop from school, her kid sister who wishes she could have joined the trip, and of course the latest gadget of parent company Sony. She wishes peace, only she has no idea that the unnamed waters offer much of the opposite.
With her surfboard as her sole company, she conquers the waves and befriends some locals along the way. It is only by the end of her first day that she realizes the consequences of her ordeals. The challenge starts with the appearance of a great white shark that seems to be there just to bully around. Gossip Girl’s Blake Lively has turned into a fierce performer in the most outrageous stints 200 yards from the shore.
For a film that heavily relies on a single actor, The Shallows delivers with excitement all throughout its tight runtime. It is not even a question of whether it would be tiring to witness her frustrations granted her wound, the unpredictability of the weather, and the terrors of being alone in the middle of nowhere. What a fitting struggle for survival that is equally affecting and horrifying.
And as everything comes to an end, the crowd would just obviously cheer for the action-packed climax followed by a resolution that touches the human heart. The energy is there—something that The Shallows recognizes, not only for the sake of its audience, but most importantly for the very motion of its narrative.