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Film review: The Shallows

Film & TV

“What was once in the deep is now in the shallows” warns the trailer for this latest shark-versus-swimmer thriller starring Blake Lively. So just how scary is it?

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On a pilgrimage to rediscover herself, adventurous surfer Nancy (Lively) travels abroad to locate a secret beach in Mexico beloved by her late mother. At home among the seclusion and pristine beauty of the beach, she is soon chasing waves – but her perfect holiday is brought to a brutal halt when she is attacked by a shark.

Seriously injured, Nancy finds herself stranded on a small patch of rocks just 200 metres from shore with the great white circling her and the tide quickly rising quickly.

Directed by Spanish filmmaker Jaume Collet-Serra and shot at several locations across New South Wales and Queensland, The Shallows features breathtaking scenic coastlines, pristine beaches and untamed tropical forests.

The film has a small supporting cast, but most seen for mere minutes: Oscar Jaenada makes the most of his screen time as Nancy’s guide Carlos, while unusual cast member Sully the Seagull brings some unexpected comedy as “Steven Seagull” – an injured bird that becomes Nancy’s unlikely companion on the rocks.

However, it is Lively (The Age of Adaline and TV’s Gossip Girl) who carries the story, and she rises to the challenge well, transforming into a determined survivor as the plot unfolds.

Despite the size of the menacing shark, the audience rarely sees it in full. A glimpse of a shadow or fin, or the subtle movement of a wave provide the only clue to its presence. The space between sightings also varies, heightening the tension. And all this makes for a more terrifying experience when the shark does attack.

With its simplistic plot and single-character focus, The Shallows is certainly not the most challenging or complex film, but it is an intense viewing experience – one that will leave some viewers seriously reconsidering their next trip to the beach.

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