REVIEW: “The Shallows”


One the surface “The Shallows” isn’t a film that would normally catch my eye. Neither Blake Lively in the lead role nor frequent Liam Neeson collaborator Jaume Collet-Serra directing was enough to draw my interest. But it’s amazing how a slick, compelling trailer can change your perspective.

In the Neeson thriller “Non-Stop” Collet-Serra played within the small confined space of a Boeing 767. Here he does the same, trading in the tight spaces of a jet plane for a remote Mexican beach. The bulk of the story takes place in a small isolated lagoon. It’s here that Lively’s character Nancy ends her emotional pilgrimage to find a favorite surfing spot of her recently deceased mother.


The simplicity of the story is actually a strength. We are fed small chunks of backstory that are a bit on the nose, but still brief enough to add context without distracting. The bulk of the story focuses on Nancy’s experience on the beach and what an experience it is. Her emotional release soon becomes a fight for survival after she is attacked by a shark and left stranded on a small reef.

“The Shallows” ultimately becomes an ocean water survival thriller mixed with shark horror in a tone reminiscent of “Jaws”. It works for a number of reasons namely that Collet-Serra and company never lose their lean and simple focus. It maintains its course steadily building up tension and offering up a handful of legitimate scares. It also works thanks to some fantastic cinematography featuring some great overhead shots and even better underwater photography.


While all of that is important to the film’s success,  Blake Lively is the anchor. I have to admit, I was surprised by her strong and gutsy performance. For the most part she carries the movie on her shoulders and she puts it all out there both physically and emotionally. It is a demanding role which Lively is more than capable of handling.

Those unable to put aside an overly critical eye could dwell on a cheesy scene or two. They could point out a couple of preposterous things that happen in the final act. But I find it hard to imagine that someone wouldn’t find this to be a fun and entertaining ride especially considering the deluge of mediocre films so far this summer. “The Shallows” wisely stays true to its central concept. Its hook could easily wear thin if it extended itself too far, but the compact 80 minute running time keeps the tension high and the story moving forward. It keeps its bite and, unlike that pesky shark, it never overstays its welcome.


4 Stars

22 thoughts on “REVIEW: “The Shallows”

  1. Great review. I had all the same points. This was quite a surprise for me and I enjoyed heck out of this. So much punch for 80 minutes and I felt the tension for every single one.

  2. So far my favorite film of the summer. It is exactly the film it is advertised as. The photography was excellent and although I thought Blake Lively was terrible in Savages a few years back, she was really strong in this. It was a solid physical performance.

    • Wasn’t it a strong performance? I have to admit I had no expectations for her going in. But she gave such a strong and committed performance. And I agree, this has been a highlight of a pretty mediocre summer.

  3. Wow Keith, I think I am as surprised as you are w/ the good reviews for this one. When I saw the trailer I kind of laughed at it, but hey, Lively is the one having the last laugh now. I might give it a rent one day, I actually like her in Age of Adaline, which is a completely different role.

    • You know this could have been really terrible. But I was stunned at how lean and focused the story is. And Lively completely caught me offguard. She really brings it. It gets a little crazy at the end but it is a ton of fun. Absolutely rent it or if you get a chance see it in the theater. The photography is superb and it looks really good on the big screen.

  4. Nice one Keith, you’ll hear no complaints from me! There are certainly some pretty absurd things at the end but this was a taut and trim little thriller that packed a punch. I’ve been really respecting Blake Lively’s trajectory as of late. She was the anchor of Age of Adaline which I ended up really digging, and her more physical performance here finds her branching out to other things. She’s a beautiful actress but not just a pretty face, fortunately.

    • I’m definitely more convinced of her acting abilities. What she does in The Shallows is physically impressive but she brings even more to the role than that. I’m really impressed.

      Are you hearing many people talk about this film? Sadly I haven’t seen it getting much attention.

      • I put up a piece about a week ago and it has generated a lot less traffic than I thought it would, so if that’s any indication 😉 I thought it would be quite popular, what with Blake Lively adorning the poster and all. . . . . .

  5. This movie sprang into my attention out of nowhere, and I’ve heard a lot of praise for it, which is nice because I think Blake Lively gets a lot of hate she doesn’t deserve sometimes. Definitely going to check this out now. Great review!
    – Allie

    • Thanks Allie. I must admit the movie has opened my eyes to Lively. She really delivers both emotionally and physically. Really impressive.

  6. I admit, I thought the trailer looked terrible and I expected the film to get ripped apart, but after reading so many positive reviews like this one, I may have to check it out. lol

    • I can see where you’re coming from, but honestly the trailer convinced me to see it. It looked like good, goofy escapist fun. It is that but it actually is better crafted than I ever expected. Definitely give it a look.

  7. So many positive reviews! I always thought Lively, as dumb as her website and some of the stuff she says are, is a capable actress. Definitely gonna check this one out soon

  8. This came across my radar a month or so ago and I just dismissed it as usual film fodder. Surprised at how many positive reviews this film is getting. Gonna go hunt it down. It’s been a while since I’ve had a fun time watching something silly, shlocky, but still good.

    • “Silly, shlocky, but still good”. That describes this film. It is surprisingly good especially when put beside most of the other flicks that have come out this summer. It was a really nice surprise.

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