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This summer has not been a traditional one. Heck, all of 2020 has been kind of wild. But just because you might not be able to lie on the beach and soak up the sun due to social distancing guidelines doesn’t mean you can’t bring that summery feel — and a bit of thrill — to your living room. That’s where The Shallows steps, or should I say swims, in.
This 2016 survival horror film stars Blake Lively as Nancy Adams, a med-school dropout who decides to surf off the coast of a beach in Mexico that her late mother once visited. After paddling out to catch a final wave near the end of the day, however, Nancy’s leg is bitten by a shark. She must figure out how to get back to shore.
While this story looks predictable on the surface, simple isn’t synonymous with bad. In fact, The Shallow‘s familiar narrative actually helps elevate the movie’s best quality, which is its acting.
For the majority of its run time, The Shallows is a one-woman show. Sure, there are various other actors who show up from time to time. But due to the very nature of the story — in which her character is stranded in a giant, dark ocean — Lively is forced to carry the movie on her own. She does so with an authenticity that gives the unlikely circumstances believability. She even brings warmth to a performance that traditionally shouldn’t have any warmth. After all, this woman is being targeted by a killer shark. She should be terrified, and she is. Yet, she remains human. She shows compassion. And she does this all while being a total badass.
‘The Shallows’ is a distinctly summer film, filled with tropical scenery and vivid colors.
Another major highlight is the breathtaking visuals. The Shallows is a distinctly summer movie, filled with tropical scenery and vivid colors: the gentle sway of the palm trees contrasts the intensity of the ocean; the blueness of the water draws attention to the redness of Nancy’s blood. This, in combination with the haunting and fierce film score, helps fully absorb viewers in the tense situation. Meanwhile, The Shallows‘ camerawork seamlessly speaks to Nancy’s stressed perspective. The sharp angles feel organic, while the overlaid text and timer animations add a sprinkle of sleek style. It’s the little details that matter.
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And while all of these things help make The Shallows satisfying, they’re not unnecessarily flaunted. The survival story has a runtime of just under an hour and a half, giving viewers a digestible thrill that isn’t dragged out for the sake of being dragged out. It knows where to end.
The Shallows is summery, scary, and stunning. It’s the type of film that will make your body jump out of fear and your eyes widen out of anticipation. If you’ve been longing for a sunshine-soaked horror flick, this is your movie.
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