THE SHALLOWS, known henceforth the “Girl on Rock with Shark” movie, is a dandy 2016 survival thriller, lean and crafted with precision by director Jaume Collet-Saura in a stripped-down 86 minutes, with a bravura physical performance from Blake Lively.
Surfing alone on a secluded, paradisaical Mexican beach, a young woman presently finds herself wounded and stranded on a rock, 200 yards from shore, stalked by a Great White shark. Other than a few traces of character backstory, that’s the plot, obviously also the hook or gimmick for this variation on the Trapped theme.
But this setup cleverly snares the heroine and audience in several layers of fear simultaneously. Solitude—isolophobia–apart from some unlucky bit players (accent on ‘bit’), Lively is alone. Claustrophobia (the small spaces she’s marooned on), within agoraphobia (her perch surrounded by vastness, empty except for what is unseen below the surface (fear of the unknown), and our ancient boogeyman, the fear of wild animals. We’ve all got to go: being eaten alive is not usually our first choice. Though the dilemmas are devilish, it’s a class act instead of crass one, with director Collet-Saura giving it enough gore and Ouch to keep it gripping but not wallowing in same to the point of being purely fiendish.
Besides the shark and space issues, there are jellyfish, coral, and climate to handle. The array of anxieties—even were they not excellently photographed, edited, scored and designed (the CGI work is swell)— would add up to little were we not invested in the human end of the equation, and this comes across in the top rate job from the star, who is in literally every scene. Lively lives up to her name. She’s a winner (yes, it helps to look great in a bikini).
Filmed in Australia (Queensland and Lord Howe Island), for $17,000,000, reviews were solid and it was a gratifying hit to the tune of $119,000,000. With Oscar Jaenada and Brett Cullen. The top-notch cinematography credits Flavio Labiano.