Glorious Nonsense: Our Review of ‘The Shallows’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - June 24, 2016
Glorious Nonsense: Our Review of ‘The Shallows’

You know that moment you have when you try to over think and add unnecessary intellect and logic to a situation?  Well just stop it, seriously…stop it.

‘The Shallows’ is about as simple as it gets and that’s not a bad thing as it allows for a lot of fun as we watch the always entertaining and occasionally hilarious duel between man and beast play out on and underneath the waters of what is seemingly a paradise.

Nancy (Blake Lively) is on one of those cathartic vacations that we all occasionally need to take for the soul.  Surfing alone on the same immaculate beach that her mother surfed on so many years ago, it’s just a moment of pure bliss, until it turns into an absolute nightmare.  She’s attacked by a Great White Shark and is stranded just a short distance from the shore.  A mere 200 yards has never looked farther away as the fight for her survival will result in an epic battle of wills between man and beast.

While it is basically the ‘shark’ movie for the millennial generation, The Shallows embraces the gonzo fun of the genre, it’s also an atmospheric thriller that slowly builds the tension and frustration in a situation that seems so simple yet so impossible to solve.


Director Jaume Collet-Serra has a deft hand at leaning into premises that are pretty simple but ends up milking them dry for one hell of a lot of entertainment value, getting nail biting tension out of whatever the premise gives him.  It was a sharply edited and assembled affair as we get this horrible slice out of this one woman’s life that is unfolding in a near perfect paradise.  The script from writer Anthony Jaswinski was admittedly a little goofy, but that why it works.  Much like the beats in a horror movie, it needed some levity where we just roll our eyes and keep going with it.  It’s an effort in execution and while I’ll admit a lot of the execution was getting shot’s of Blake Lively’s bum from far more angles then are economical or necessary, none of it is to be taken all that seriously, because watching an attractive med student try to survive the trashy thrill filled ride that we are strapping up for is part of the fun.  If she was an accountant or a school teacher, this movie would have been over in 30 min.

To her credit, Blake Lively doesn’t milk any of the survivalist elements of the story for an unnecessary drama and rides a believable emotional line throughout it all.  There’s even a moment in the movie where she calls bullshit on her own impassioned monologue to her dad in a video camera that belonged to one of her fellow surfers who didn’t quite make it.  She’s desperate, angry and pissed off, she’s knows that this shark is after her and that the best defense for her to survive this just might be to play a little offense.  She doesn’t quite hit the levels of some of the more iconic bad ass women in history who had to take down a seemingly unconquerable obstacle ahead of her, but Lively gives it one hell of a try.theshallows3

For all you naysayers who are just calling this an excuse for an attractive woman to splash around in the water while fighting a shark…I’m not really arguing with you, but on top of all that The Shallows is one hell of entertaining thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat, embracing the madness of a shark attack movie and only asking us to go along for the ride.

This post was written by
David Voigt is a Toronto based writer with a problem and a passion for the moving image and all things cinema. Having moved from production to the critical side of the aisle for well over 10 years now at outlets like, Criticize This, Dork Shelf (Now That Shelf), to.Night Newspaper he’s been all across his city, the country and the continent in search of all the news and reviews that are fit to print from the world of cinema.
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