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Film review: The Shallows – Blake Lively battles shark in survival thriller

B-movie thrills and gore abound in this story of woman versus great white shark off the coast of Mexico.

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 03 August, 2016, 8:03am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 03 August, 2016, 8:03am

3/5 stars

From Tom Hanks in Cast Away to Matt Damon in The Martian , there’s something intriguing about watching an actor up-close and magnified in a survival-at-all-costs story. Jaume Collet-Serra’s The Shallows operates on similar principles, albeit sacrificing subtlety for visceral B-movie thrills as Blake Lively gets her chance to take centre stage – along with a great white shark.

With a bare-bones back story, the film sees Lively’s med student Nancy arrive at a secluded Mexican beach shortly after the death of her mother, who surfed this same piece of paradise years earlier. With this stretch of sand nearly all to herself, Nancy takes to the waves where she notices the floating remains of a humpback whale – the feeding ground for the film’s deadly predator.

How Blake Lively learned to tolerate the sharks, in and outside The Shallows

Knocked off her surfboard by the shark, her leg gashed, Nancy is left scrambling for safety onto a rocky outcrop some 200 metres from shore. Sharing her tiny space with a seagull (think of this bird like Hanks’ volleyball in Cast Away), as the shark circles her, what follows is a battle of wits between woman and beast that frequently threatens to tip towards the ludicrous.

Certainly, it’d be misleading to compare this to Steven Spielberg’s suspense classic Jaws. But for those looking for some unpretentious midnight-movie thrills, Collet-Serra’s film works on the most basic primal level. And while she may lack the gravitas of a Hanks or Damon, in Lively, the film scores a game actress who gives body, if not soul, to her performance.

The Shallows opens on August 4

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