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Review: The Shallows

When it comes to summer blockbuster fare, films with little logic are to be expected. These films very often walk the line between fun and stupid, rarely achieving any form of greatness beyond spectacle. Filmmaker Jaume Collet-Serra has seemingly become a master of the brilliantly ridiculously, with surprisingly engaging films such as the Liam Neeson starring Non-Stop and Unknown, as well as the Leonardo DiCaprio-produced horror film Orphan. His latest film, The Shallows, takes summer stupidity to a new extreme. A film with absolutely no logic, The Shallows somehow succeeds as what is likely to be one of the best thrill rides of the summer.

The story is simple; Nancy (Blake Lively) has left medical school to do some soul searching. While surfing at a “secret” beach, Nancy is bitten by a shark, climbs onto a rock, and must plan her survival before high tide takes her little island back into the ocean. Along for the ride is Steven Seagull, an injured avian companion who quickly becomes a friend.

Discerning the amount of effort that has been put into The Shallows is somewhat dizzying. Striking cinematography is squandered by the liberal use of transparent video chats and Instagrams covering the screen. Likewise, a great performance is often overshadowed by a series of unjustified, and just plain outrageous character decisions. Ridiculous screenplay aside, Blake Lively is unpredictably giving what is likely her best performance yet. The actress – and her bikini – must be applauded for captivating the film’s short running time. It is clear that Lively is giving her all, making the otherwise uninteresting character rather sympathetic.

The Shallows takes the suspension of disbelief to an incredible new level, daring the viewer not to think for a single moment in order to fully enjoy the film. It is quite the task, but if you can overlook the ridiculousness there is quite the reward. So, imagine that a shark has just finished chomping on a whale as well as three victims and that it is still hungry for Blake Lively. Imagine that a shark is going to swim in a circle for more than twelve hours waiting to eat Blake Lively while there is still a mostly whole whale waiting a dozen yards away. Imagine that a digital camera can be locked into a wet plastic case and not be destroyed. Imagine that physics do not exist. Got that down? If so, you are set for quite the adventure.

[star v=35]

Matt Hoffman

Matthew Hoffman is a Toronto-based cinephile who especially enjoys French films and actresses over the age of 50; including but not limited to: Isabelle Huppert, Meryl Streep, and Jacki Weaver.