Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Review: The Shallows

The Shallows
Cert: 15 / 86 mins / Dir. Jaume Collet-Serra / Trailer

I'm not going to lie, I usually avoid movies about sharks. Not least because most of them are deliberately crap these days, but also because after the first Jaws movie, I fail to see what can really be brought to a genre which doesn't appeal to me in the first place (and naturally, I include all the Jaws sequels in that). Anyhow, I went to see The Shallows. Not least because it slotted in nicely with a day's cinema-viewing in the capital. And absolutely not at all for The Other Reason.

Short plot synopsis: The film preys on man's innate and primal fear of anything bad happening happening to Blake Lively. When troubled dropout medical student Nancy*1 travels to a remote Mexican surfing-beach as an homage to a holiday her late mother took, she finds herself injured and stranded on a rocky outcropping as an angry shark circles around like a drunk at the door of a kebab-shop.

With its human v nature, survival-thriller aesthetic, The Shallows is quite Hitchcockian at its core, with the shark being a metaphor for Nancy's fear, the danger of reliance on nostalgia but also her own determination. Given that the vast majority of her performance is essentially monologuing, Lively is pretty great here. She and director Jaume Collet-Serra hold the film together well, and I'd like to see them work together in the future.

Oh and yeah, The Other Reason. Initially all this does seem a bit like a cheap excuse to get Blake Lively in a bikini and wetsuit-top for an hour and a half. The first twenty minutes in particular feel like a big-screen adaptation of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. And that might be par for the course with crap like Piranha 3D, but The Shallows is actually a much smarter film.

Of course, I'm hardly a marine-life expert but even I noticed inconsistencies you could use to bludgeon a whale to death*2. Although I was generally going along with it until the point where the screenwriter's clearly decided "and then the shark goes on fire a bit!". But as a story of an ordinary person in an extraordinary situation, it just about works. As much as it still isn't really my thing, I have to admit I'm impressed by the film-making.

A more-than-reasonable stab at a genre which didn't need any more additions, The Shallows might not put you off going for a paddle, but it should make you look a bit more closely at that person further out who seems to know you because they're waving…

So, watch this if you enjoyed?
Well, it's a bit 127 Hours, but I'm not sure if that's a good thing or not

Should you watch this in a cinema, though?
The big screen is good at heightening the tension, but you won't lose too much by watching this at home.

Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?
Pretty much, yes.

Is this the best work of the cast or director?
From the star of The Age of Adaline and director of Non-Stop Neeson?
It's not, no

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?

Yes, but is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?

Yes, but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 2: Blake Lively's in this, and she was in that film last year with Harrison 'Solo' Ford.
All roads lead to Han, today.

I mean, she was in the same film with Anthony Ingruber who was very nearly 'Solo' too, but as with Miles Teller the other day, Anthony didn't get the young-Han gig either.
Alden Ehrenreich had better be good, mind…

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

*2 Come on, Screenwriters. It's 2016: we need more protagonists called Nancy. It's an awesome name and I spent the film imagining that Blake Lively's character was a friend of my Grandma who lives over the road from her.

*2 Okay, the main issues break down like this:
(highlight to read, although they'll make little/no sense if you haven't seen the film)

1)How come Nancy can get a reliable data-signal on her phone (strong enough for a video-call) on a secret, deserted beach in Mexico, yet I struggle to post to Facebook when I'm in fucking Wandsworth? Although I'm guessing Nancy's not with BT Mobile, to be fair.
2)Speaking of data-connections, why does Nancy make a big deal about asking the few people she meets what the name of the beach is? Just GPS yourself on Google Maps and go from there, surely? There aren't any secrets on the internet…
3)Why would an experienced surfer wear those flimsy necklaces out in the water, especially if they've got sentimental value?
4)There's Nancy timing the shark swimming around the rock. "32 seconds" she says, to give herself time to brave the water and back without being attacked. That's the shark cruising, though. As soon as your bleeding leg gets back into the water, Sharky Bappa will accelerate to attack-speed, at which point: lunch.
5)And there's Nancy looking at a buoy and gauging the distance. "That's about a minute's swim" she says. Except that by that point, she's down to three usable limbs and hasn't eaten for over 24 hours. Hardly olympic-material. Again, lunch.
6)How come when the fat man from the beach has been Darth-Mauled by the shark and he's dragging his top-half ashore, the severed spinal column (or just rapid blood/organ loss) didn't paralyse or kill him instantly? His abdomen and legs are actually and completely off. You see them, remember.
7)And how come when the surfer dudes show up the next morning, they don't notice the top-half of a fat man on the beach? He crawled up at high-tide so there'd be nothing to pull him back into the water.
Apart from that, I imagine it's almost documentary-like in its attention to detail.

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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