A surfer is attacked by a great white shark 200 yards away
from shore and must figure out a way to get back to dry land.
The Shallows (2016)
Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra
Written by Anthony Jaswinski
Starring Blake Lively, Óscar Jaenada, Angelo Josue
Lozano Corzo, Brett Cullen, Sedona Legge
The Shallows has a brilliant premise that I thought could only work as a short film. Stretching the concept into a full-length horror thriller would surely load the movie up with gratuitous gore and jump scares. Instead, Jaume Collet-Serra uses the extra time to build up the limitless tension and craft a thriller that is well on its way to becoming a cult classic. It's the classic "Injured person uses their wits to escape" trope, but it's done in an unpredictable way that keeps the audience on its toes throughout. In many ways, it's the true spiritual sequel to Jaws and this generation's shark movie.
Blake Lively excels in the role of Nancy, the surfer who gets bit by a great white and trapped on a small rock formation 200 yards from shore. To be honest, I was never a fan of hers until her performance in this film. She's a likable protagonist with enough development that you care about her predicament and want to see her escape. Her battle of wits with the great white makes for some thrilling scenes. The CGI shark was terrifying as well and the design team behind it made it feel like a real villain instead of just an obstacle. It had personality. Its goal felt personal. My only gripe is the cheeseball ending where everything works out for everybody. It felt tacked on and insincere, especially after the harrowing escape we just witnessed.
It's difficult to make a decent shark movie after the surge of ridiculous ones (I'm looking at you, Sharknado), but The Shallows is definitely the best in a very long time. It makes good use of its isolated setting and builds up the tension a bit at a time, making a near perfect thriller in the process. It's not afraid to cross the border into full-on horror either. The Shallows is tense, terrifying, and worth the watch.