The Shallows [Celluloid Hero]
The Shallows (2016)
“High concept” movies are ones that are based on a simple premise, usually something like “What if ___?” Sometimes the concept works (what if we could clone dinosaurs?) and other times it just feels dopey (what if a hot chick got stuck in the water with shark?).
The lovely Blake Lively plays Nancy, a med student taking a break from her studies after the death of her mother. She uses old pictures to find a secluded beach in Mexico where her mother visited years ago while she was pregnant with Nancy (pictures are labeled 1991, which twisted my brain a bit). Nancy visits Mexico with a friend who ends up getting drunk the night before and stays at the hotel, finds the beach thanks to a local who speaks very little English, and decides to stay out surfing alone after two other locals head back in. All of these isolating incidents do a fairly decent job of keeping the premise realistic. The flaw, though, are in most of the decisions made by Nancy.
Leaving her drunk friend in the hotel is an iffy decision to start. Sure, they’re both adults and can handle themselves, but running around solo in a foreign country where you don’t speak the language isn’t smart. Hitching a ride to an unnamed beach with a guy who you can barely communicate with is also not smart. I’m no surf expert, but I’m pretty sure that you’re never supposed to go out alone; even if you want to catch one last wave, ask your friends to hang at the shore til you come back in.
Oh yeah, after all this, there’s still a shark! Seemingly out of nowhere, an injured whale appears in the cove. Seagulls are pecking at the whale’s open wounds, blood is flowing profusely, the smell is horrible, so naturally Nancy (who we are to believe is a med student and an experienced surfer) goes in for a closer look. After a moment she starts to paddle back to shore, when the shark bumps her board, knocks her underwater, and bites her leg. After the inspecting bite, the shark leaves Nancy alone long enough for her to make it to a rock that is jutting just above the surface of the water. She has a limited time to spend on this rock as the tide will eventually come in and submerge it. She manages to use her medical knowledge to keep herself from bleeding out, but other than that, the situation seems hopeless. The shark continues to circle the rock, leaving her with a buoy (that will rise and sink with the tide) as her only hope. She is able to make it, when the shark decides to attack the buoy. I don’t want to spoil the ending, but a fairly ridiculous conclusion lets Nancy escape to safety.
I’m no sharkologist, so I can’t really comment on whether or not the shark was behaving accurately. However, based on the numerous Shark Week specials I’ve watched, I’m pretty sure that sharks don’t hold a grudge. There is a giant, 30-foot, 20-ton whale just begging to be eaten, but this shark spends a ton of time and energy chasing down a 5’9”, 130lb hors d’oeuvres? Nancy attempts to rationalize that the shark isn’t necessarily hungry, but instead defending territory, but it seems like a tacked-on line in the script. Once Nancy gets to the buoy, the shark continually attacks the rusty metal. I’ve seen sharks attack cages, but typically once they realize it’s not food, they stop.
Blake Lively said she was inspired to do this movie thanks to her husband Ryan Reynolds’ movie “Buried.” I loved “Buried”, but “The Shallows” left me with more eye-rolls than tense moments. The scenery was beautiful, Lively is beautiful, but the character actions and the shark just felt like this should have been a prequel to Sharknado or something.
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On the [Celluloid Hero] scale, “The Shallows” gets a 4 out of 10.