The prospect of spending 90 minutes with Blake Lively and a shark might not be everyone’s idea of a perfect movie night. But as guilty pleasures go, you’ve got to admit The Shallows has a promising set up – beautiful young woman is trapped on a rock in the middle of a bay while a Great White circles ominously.
 
As it turns out, Spanish director Jaume Collet-Serra delivers a nicely paced, well-crafted thriller that keeps you on the edge of your seat for the most part. It’s never as realistic or creepy as Open Water, but it does pack some genuine scares.
 
Gossip Girl star Lively plays Nancy, a medical student from Texas, still mourning her mother’s death when she arrives at the isolated Mexican beach that meant so much to her. The golden sand and perfect waves are a surfer’s paradise, until a shark decides to show up. Bleeding from a deep cut to her leg, and clinging on for dear life to a small rock, she must figure out how to avoid becoming the creature’s dinner.
 
To be fair, The Shallows feels closer in spirit to harrowing survival tales like 127 Hours or Buried over Jaws. Because frankly, the shark is incidental to the story. It’s really about this young woman’s indefatigable spirit to overcome her fate. And Lively, who is in virtually every frame of the film, rises to the challenge with a committed performance.
 
Doffing his hat to Spielberg, the film’s director shows us the shark only sparingly, and cranks up the tension using music and wide shots of the water in a foreboding fashion. There are logical loopholes aplenty, but it won’t matter after a point, once you’re invested in the protagonist and her unwillingness to play the victim here.
 
I’m going with three out of five for The Shallows. It’s a smart, crisp thriller that works despite its contrivances. Give it a chance.
 
Rating: 3 / 5

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