In which I wept for the noble Great White Shark while Blake Lively and a giant smartphone screen strolled around somewhere much more beautiful than where I now sit etc etc…
SPARE a thought for the poor Great White Shark. Ever since Jaws (1975), this proud creature has been treated in a manner akin to a fishy Nazi, always on hand when a mindless monster is required to do the murderous dirty work.
Take the gilled tormentor in this lush 85-minute ditty from Catalonian director Jaume Collet-Serra. Despite feeding off a dead whale, this crazed monster wants nothing more than to wash down its blubbery banquet with skinny Blake Lively.
In fact, the svelte form of Lively presents such a tantalisingly delicious prospect to the fish that a full feature film is gleaned from the flimsy “surfer v shark” premise. But look to Collet-Serra’s back catalogue – Liam Neeson vehicles Unknown, Non-stop and Run All Night) – as well as luxurious, glistening shots of Lively togging-out and slipping through crystalline waves and you get the sense this could all be an overly elaborate showreel to launch the former Gossip Girl star as an action lead.
She’s not quite there yet, but Lively does put her back into portraying Nancy, a US student on a surfing pilgrimage to a mysterious and idyllic Mexican cove. Beside cheesy shots of our heroine riding waves there are more major lapses in taste, like huge floating phone screens in the shot.
None of this matters because very soon Lovely Lively has become Lonely Lively, stapling a bite to her leg closed and trying to figure out a way off a rock 200 yards from shore with the huge psychotic CGI shark circling. She grits her teeth. Jaws grits back. Only a fool would fancy the shark’s chances.
It’s unintentionally hilarious in parts, and any courting of class and credibility is jettisoned by the time the ludicrous denouement is sold to us. And this is the problem with The Shallows – it’s not quite bad enough. Had it embraced its shlocky B-movie undertow more wholly, a cult classic could have been the result.
First published in the Sunday Independent