It doesn't matter whether you're lying on your back in the pool, taking a dip in the river, or heading out past the break at the beach, most of us experience a - somewhat irrational - fear of what lurks below the waves. The dark, murky water could hold any number of unexpected surprises, waiting to pull us down deep below the surface. The legacy of films such as 'Jaws' has only helped fuel our anxieties. The latest shark thriller, 'The Shallows', is circling cinemas - and while it may not be the next 'Jaws', there's plenty of fodder there to add to your nightmares.
A homage to a much-loved family beach turns deadly when Nancy's (Blake Lively) surfing trip is disrupted by a ravenous shark. After being badly attacked and losing blood, Nancy is forced to spend the evening on an outcrop as the threat circles her. As unsuspecting bystanders fall victim to the shark, the high tide threatens to submerge Blake's sanctuary - but can she survive its deadly jaws?
I want to start off by clarifying: this isn't anywhere near as bad as you think it will be. Better still, it's actually quite decent. First and foremost is the stunning cinematography. Captured more like a surf competition than a film with remarkable aerials and slo-mo shots, the results from cinematographer Flavio Martínez Labiano ('Non-Stop', 'Unknown') and Underwater DOP Simon Christidis ('Unbroken', 'The Bait') are phenomenal. It probably doesn't hurt having Lord Howe Island as your location either.
Vital to the film is Blake Lively's performance. Nancy is, in essence, the only character in this film, trapped in one location, and as such, Lively carries the film quite well. Proving she's come a long way since her 'Gossip Girl' days, she puts sufficient fear, intelligence and emotion into the role to allow the audience to be empathetic of her position - without which the film would have floundered.
Vital to the film is Blake Lively's performance. Nancy is, in essence, the only character in this film, and Lively carries the film quite well.
For the most part, 'The Shallows' avoids the horror film cliché: "He's behind you! Don't go in there!" The story doesn't fall victim to many yell-at-the-screen moments, as Nancy finds herself in genuine, unavoidable peril, whilst being smart enough to avoid any further unnecessary danger. But - yes, there is a but - things do come seriously undone as the film reaches its climax. Without giving anything away, the ending becomes completely ridiculous and farcical. It's such a shame, since the first 90% of the film is well-crafted and amply nail-biting.
So does the final product sink or swim? Despite its disappointing ending, 'The Shallows' still remains firmly buoyant for me. Providing a truly nerve-racking experience at the cinemas these days is not an easy task, yet this film succeeds in that department. Luckily for us the film is a winter release - in summer, you might prefer to stay out of the ocean for a few days.