The Shallows (PG-13)

Starring Blake Lively, The Shallows is a modern-day man (or in this case woman) vs. shark tale about a very smart shark that can really hold a grudge and is determined to have Lively’s character, Nancy, for supper.

What I liked about The Shallows is that it in almost no way resembles  Jaws, except, quite obviously, that there is a killer shark and some suspense involved.  It was almost an anti-Jaws type movie in that this beach setting is small and intimate, desolate and unnamed – which kept the movie on a small scale – which is why the movie worked.  Only a few people die, but on an isolated island every death is meaningful. There were not throngs of tourists involved, and it was not a holiday weekend or spring break, on an island with many inhabitants.  There was no mass hysteria or need for a “bigger boat.”  There was just Nancy and this Shark, pretty much.  Even the length of the movie, a respectable 1 hour 26 minutes, is considered sort of short for a movie these days.  I very much appreciated the movie’s length, rather than sitting through an additional 24 minutes of fluff to fill up 2 hours for no good reason at all.  This makes me want to see more from director Jaume Collet-Serra and writer Anthony Jaswinski.

Lively does a decent job of carrying a movie (and the seagull playing Nancy’s non-verbal companion (à la Wilson from Castaway) deserves an honorable mention).  Lively got a chance to join the mostly boys club that includes, to name a few, Tom Hanks (Castaway), Robert Redford (All is Lost) and Matt Damon (The Martian), as a main character carrying a movie with little to no other characters in most of their scenes.  The only other women I can think of who are in that club may be Sigourney Weaver (Alien) (I hope I am not confusing Alien with Aliens.  if that is the case please forgive me) and Sandra Bullock (Gravity).  I may be forgetting some film or another, but you get the point, I’m sure.  There are not many women in the club.

I did not care for the tech presentations in the movie, generally. We all know what year it is and that everyone is equipped with gadgets that do just about anything and everything, but I did not enjoy being taken outside of the movie and put on the character’s Facetime call.  There is a scene where a cell phone screen with Nancy’s image and a cell phone screen with the image of her sister, are literally simultaneously put up on the movie screen as Nancy walks on the beach during their conversation.  At another point, Nancy’s high tech clock is put up on the screen, which is less annoying because she is using it to time the shark’s activity.  It worked with the clock, but not with the Facetime for me because although I see how the Facetiming technique cuts the film budget (not to have to actually shoot a scene with those lines in it, put it on the phone, and explaining the background of the story) I believe I would have enjoyed the movie more if those scenes would have been played out.  Hey, maybe not.  But I get it.  Nancy is a modern, gadget using girl.

Also, personally, if I had written this movie it would have been rated R due to the amount of cussin’ I would have been doing while this focused and extremely fixated, ever so patient shark stalked me.  This woman may have had the cleanest mouth on film ever, particularly under the circumstances.  I wonder, has anyone created a test or a measurement for that?

Time Out Magazine naming this movie one of the best of 2016 so far is a bit of a stretch in my opinion, but whatever…  Everyone has their own taste.  And it isn’t like Hollywood is cranking out masterpieces so far this year either – so they may be correct.

The Shallows earns 7 bloops.  It’s not a bad movie, and is worth a watch.  Whether you see it in the theater or wait for it to come on cable or streaming, I think you’ll enjoy it.  Aside from the fact that the protagonist is a woman, the movie provides nothing we’ve not seen before.  But, there is some suspense here, and the movie does not try to be something it is not, which is really rather smart.  Depending on your taste, The Shallows may be worth the price of admission for some light, summer fare if you want to escape the heat and find something to keep the kids quiet for a few minutes.  The youngsters (7-11 year olds) who were in the theater with me were quiet, captivated and seemed to enjoy it very much.

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