A stripped-down survival story mixed with a little 21-century technology adds up to one hell of a snappy suspense yarn courtesy of director Jaume Collet-Serra. Blake Lively plays Nancy, an American medical student whose grief has taken her to a secluded Mexican beach, and a surfing encounter with a shark that leaves her injured and stranded on a rock 200 seemingly-infinite yards from shore. Lively has to carry pretty much the entire 85 minutes, and she’s surprisingly up to the task; Collet-Serra trusts her performance enough to stage one of the most brutal attacks on another person almost entirely through her terrified reaction. But while the script offers just enough back-story to frame Nancy’s quest to get out of this experience alive, it works mostly as a supremely efficient example of building suspense through the limited options in a fixed space: a broken piece of surfboard; a nearby buoy and its contents; a piece of jewelry-turned-impromptu suture. Relying on its toothy CGI antagonist only to a limited degree, The Shallows reminds us of how a skilled craftsman’s use of tension and release may be the essence of movie-making (86 min.).
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Producer: Lynn Harris, Matti Leshem, Doug Merrifield and Jaume Collet-Serra
Cast: Blake Lively, Óscar Jaenada, Brett Cullen, Sedona Legge, Pablo Calva, Diego Espejel, Janelle Bailey, Ava Dean and Chelsea Moody