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The Shallows (2016)

Anthony Jaswinski’s screenplay for The Shallows was featured on 2014’s Blacklist, a list of the most well received, but unmade scripts of the year. Blake Lively plays the main role in Jaume Collet-Serra’s survival horror about Nancy Adams, a surfer left injured and stranded 200 yards from the shore. To make things worse, there is a large, hungry shark circling the small group of rocks she’s managed to scramble to.

The premise (‘127 Hours’, but with a shark) is really simple, but it’s not just that which puts a new twist on the shark movie genre (is that a genre?... lets just go with it). This isn’t a monster that’s got the taste for human flesh for no reason (it’s drawn to the area by a dead whale body). Even the finale, as well as being really satisfying, is definitely original. Blake Lively is really likeable, brings humour when needed. Her character has a backstory that doesn’t feel tacked on, and actually adds weight to those scenes where she is fighting for her life. Spending much of the film stuck on a bunch of rocks with nothing other than a volleyball seagull for company, there is a lot on her to hold this film together, and I thought she did that really well. Saying that, there was the odd bit where she talked the audience through what she is doing and why. Nobody would tell themselves out loud why and how they are treating their wounds like she does. I get why, but sometimes it may have been better to take a note out of J. C. Chandor’s All Is Lost (2013). The film is nearly entirely dialogue free with a script consisting of only 32 pages. Robert Redford’s character just gets on with his battle with the elements and doesn’t feel the need to reach out to his audience to explain how. I don’t think The Shallows needed something quite as extreme as that, but sometimes it came across as daft and a little patronising.
It’s a great looking film, and with a beach that stunning you would be tempted to put up with the bloodthirsty shark. The shark itself looks really good too, but I’m glad they didn’t show too much of it until the end. Monster movies have a tendency to give away it’s creature far too early.   It’s much scarier to leave it up to the audience’s imagination, and that’s something Jaws (1975) did really well (albeit not always out of choice with their malfunctioning animatronic shark), and has always been my problem with Cloverfield (2008).  My favourite scene in the movie was when the shark attacks someone else in the water, but all you see of it is Lively's reaction to what is going on.  It's much scarier than any of the scenes with the CGI shark in itself.  We’re left with a tense, and scary popcorn movie that didn’t try to be anything more than it was, and did it’s thing very well. It won’t live long in the memory, but it was a great evening out. Also, give that Wilson seagull an Oscar!


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