'The Shallows': Visually appealing, but predictable (IANS Review)
'The Shallows' is a lean, mean and suspenseful survival drama. It is entertaining and boasts of great technical accolades, but falls short on its own endurance levels.
It is a survival tale of a young medical student named Nancy Adams, who after the loss of her mother, decides to spend some time on a secluded beach in Mexico, one of her mother's favourite.
Nancy takes her surfboard out and happily soaks up the beautiful scenery. While surfing on this remote and sparsely populated stretch, she becomes the target of a lone killer shark.
Stranded in the shallows after surviving the initial encounter, she makes it to a small islet, though vulnerable to high tides, where she uses her skills as a medical student to close her wounds. As darkness falls, she realizes that she is in a race against time - when high tide arrives in a few hours, her island would submerge and there will be nothing to save her from becoming the shark's meal.
How Nancy uses all her strength and wits to observe the shark and her surroundings to escape from her perch and predicament, forms the crux of this story.
Written by Anthony Jawswinski, the script is predictable and lacks the force to make it a credible narrative. And director Jaume Collet-Serra makes no effort to rectify this. Every scene, from the very beginning, seems manufactured, inclusive of the intended humour or in-film marketing, relating to the hailing of Uber in the remote area.
The initial strike and chaos in the first act, is frightening and while the suspense in the second act is what keeps you hooked, it fails on realism. Though Blake Lively as Nancy is convincing and she gets to show her compelling survivor instincts with an analytical sharp mind, pain and suffering along with her blood loss, hunger and dehydration and her final escape, the situations all seem contrived, yet exciting.
This being a one-woman show and with a major portion of the narrative between Nancy and the shark, the rest of the cast which includes a seagull, is one-dimensional and perfunctory.
Visually, the film is breathtaking and has a creative sheen. The film is exquisitely shot. And the usage of the jittery-found-footage using the GoPro camera, and the non-fussy graphics of text messages and the digital clock that pop-up in mid-air adroitly blend with cinematographer Flavio Martinez Labiano's prolonged aerial and wide angle shots that capture the underwater scenes, majestic shore and the waves in all their glory.
The computer-generated shark is fairly unconvincing, but it does take the action to a horrifying close.
The sound design, which includes the background score, heightens the tension and elevates the viewing experience.
Overall, the film shines on the horror and tension quotient.