*I still remember being scared out of my mind when I saw Steven Spielberg’s 1975 classic Jaws for the first time, at the theater. We had seen nothing like it on screen. It became the first Hollywood summer blockbuster, eventually earning over $470 million at the box office.
With the advent of today’s CGI, I’ve often wondered what an update to that masterpiece might look like. Now we know.
The Shallows is a very well acted, visually stunning movie that pits man against sea beast once more. Blake Lively stars as a buxom blonde who quickly finds herself face-to-snout with about 20 feet of fish. In some ways, her plight is more nail-biting than the one depicted in Jaws, as instead of being out on the open sea, Lively’s character is just yards away from the shore, literally between a rock and a safe place.
Her pesky, piscine protagonist earns several shout-outs. Movie magic has come a long way from Jaws’ rubbery, malfunctioning star, and this is one frightening fish.
Director Jaume Collet-Serra clearly learned a bit from directors like Spielberg and Hitchcock. In one critical, early scene, we experience the horror of a shark attack by viewing only the face and hearing the screams of the victim, while we watch the ocean’s clear water suddenly turn crimson. The image we conjure is far worse than any the movie could have shown.
Lively gives a solid performance, even when she was bogged down with a little too much backstory. I didn’t need to hear about the mother who died or the father who’s disappointed. Stranded girl and shark…that’s all I want or need in a movie like this, along with a tub of popcorn. Lively shines during a gripping scene where her medical training and her earrings come in handy — and I dare you to watch it without wincing.
One disappointment was the film’s score. I always wondered whether Jaws would have been as terrifying without John Williams’ masterful, haunting theme, constantly cuing the audience to the horrors to come. The Shallows suggests once and for all that it wouldn’t have been.
Also, there’s a point just before the end of the movie where The Shallows, um…jumps the shark. I don’t want to give anything away, but your eyes will probably roll just like mine did. And the end scene should have been sent to the cutting room floor.
Die hard fans of Disney’s The Little Mermaid (it was my eldest daughter’s first movie with her pops…don’t judge) particularly, will chuckle in a couple of scenes…
…and wait until you hear the hysterical name that Lively’s character gives a friendly seagull. The bird is her version of “Wilson” in Castaway.
All in all, The Shallows is an enjoyable, summer popcorn flick that will cause you to jump out of your chair a few times, but if you wonder just how scared you’ll be, consider this: I went swimming right after I saw it.
The Shallows is in theaters everywhere.
Freelancer Michael P Coleman STILL thinks Jaws is the scariest movie he’s ever seen. He put the Blu Ray in after he wrote this, and needless to say he didn’t go swimming after THAT. Connect with him on Twitter: @ColemanMichaelP