In preparation for my viewing of The Shallows, I started thinking about what some of the best shark movies are and I’m disappointed to say that there aren’t many. Obviously Jaws is the king of the subgenre, but over 40 years later and we really haven’t gotten much else. Open Water would probably be my runner-up choice and while Deep Blue Sea is fun, it’s also incredibly stupid. So The Shallows – directed by Jaume Collet-Serra – is actually pretty rare; it’s a shark movie treated with care and doesn’t feel like a low-budget movie that should belong on a sci-fi channel. Is it the best shark movie since Jaws? Probably not, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a welcome surprise.

Still grieving over the death of her mother, Nancy (Blake Lively) has run away from her family and her responsibilities in medical school. She’s traveling the world and has decided to go surfing on a beach that holds a special connection to her late mother. The secret beach is absolutely beautiful and the only people who seem to know of its existence are two local surfers and the driver that brought her there. As she’s catching the last wave of the day, Nancy notices a dying whale that’s washed into shallow waters. As she floats over to investigate, the bleeding whale attacks a massive shark, which takes a bite out of Nancy. Now stranded on a rock mere hundreds of feet from shore, Nancy will have to use all of her strength and knowledge to outsmart the Great White Beast.

The Shallows starts very strong, with a simply premise that’s told efficiently. Nancy is being terrorized by a big shark, but its size has nothing to do with experimentation or radioactive waste. The idea of being stranded so close to shore may seem like a stretch, but it’s pretty realistic when compared to other shark films. The screenplay by Anthony Jaswinski does a great job at making the audience feel like they’re a part of Nancy’s situation and Collet-Serra provides a steady line of suspense that peaks at a few crucial moments. There are some moments here where the shark will make you jump out of your seat and not since the original Jaws has a shark film so effectively created the feeling that an attack could come from anywhere at any time, particularly in the moments before we actually see the beast.

But what starts as a down-to-earth B-movie gets increasingly more ridiculous as time marches on. The final ten minutes of The Shallows take the simple premise and offer an unbelievable resolution. And the visual effects – which are excellent throughout the majority of the film – don’t hold up in some of the climactic moments involving a buoy. It’s as if a simple meal was ruined by the chef adding too many ingredients onto the dessert. But I’m always a fan of the journey over the destination, so while this certainly has its problems, this is prime summer entertainment. It will make you hungry for more shark movies.

The Shallows receives 3/4

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