Perfect Summer Fear
An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis
It’s summer. It’s hot. The movie menu is lean. Go see The Shallows. The only people who won’t be scared are the accomplished surfers who are sure to keep insisting that none of it could ever happen. They’re right, but the point of a good summer thriller is not that it be possible but that it be terrifying. This one is terrifying because it is crafted with skill. There’s a reason that Jaws became a summer classic. Now and again people love to be scared, especially in the safety of a movie theater.
An early plus: the whole thing is filmed just 200 yards off shore in a beautiful Australian cove. Nancy (Blake Lively) is being driven to a remote beach by Carlos (Oscar Jaenada) who drives through sand, woods, and trails to the nearly always deserted beach. The remoteness is point one on the suspense scale. Nancy, a medical student, has been determined to surf this particular beach because of her mother’s description of surfing there years before she died. Surfer mother raised a surfer daughter who is determined to carry out Mom’s wish that she experience the magic of this place.
In the first ominous note, the friend who was to be her surfing buddy drops out. Nancy will be alone in this remote beauty. For a long satisfying spell we are treated to an accomplished surfer enjoying the mountainous waves. She is comfortable with the challenge because she’s good at what she does. We are enjoying her spirit and her skill.
I’ll go no farther with the plot than to say that by the time the Great White Shark appears, the music has told us to get ready, this is going to be tough. It is indeed. The whole thing is a storyteller’s holiday. Scenery, music, acting, and camera work combine to make sure you are frozen in anticipation of the next horrific twist. You can promise yourself you won’t close your eyes in fear, but you’ll lose that bet. Even worse – or better, depending on your outlook – it’s all so well done that you will begin to think this is all too professional for a happy ending. Will she or won’t she? That’s when your eyes will close involuntarily.
That brings us to Blake Lively. She is thoroughly credible as the young medical student determined to experience her mother’s dream. Whether she’s dealing with the thrill and beauty of surfing those waves or dealing with the physical and emotional shock of the shark, she doesn’t overact.
Lively is supported all the way by technicians who know how to make real blood, cuts, scars, and vomit for further credibility. You could tell me the whole thing was filmed in an Australian bathtub and I wouldn’t care. That’s how good the special effects are. So good that I can’t even mention the shark or the whale. I was quite surprised, and grateful, that I hadn’t had a heart attack.
Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Film Title : The Shallows
Word count : 497
Running time : 1:27
Rating : PG-13
Date : July 17, 2016