It’s being dubbed the worst summer blockbuster season of all-time, by some–and I can’t mount much of an argument. Honestly, unless you like cartoon fish and animated mammals, what has solstice ’16 provided since “Cap 3”? And that opened in early May! Will the latest “Star Trek” save it? Too soon to tell. “Suicide Squad”? It’s got the buzz–so maybe. Of course, the public has mostly ignored some great art films like “The Neon Demon” and “Love & Friendship”. But even I need a dog days fix occasionally. So, how about an over performing ‘B’ movie, starring Blake Lively in swimwear for 90 minutes? Okay–twist my arm. And lo and behold, “The Shallows” delivers. It eventually gets a little silly, but it certainly stays FUN.
Nancy (Ms. Lively–quite good, plus it’s almost all her show) is going surfing on a hidden beach in Mexico. It was her mother’s favorite location, and we soon find out that mom recently passed from cancer. The spot is hidden behind a wooded area, so Nancy hires a driver to get her there (Oscar Jaenada, making the best of his limited screen time). It’s a gorgeous spot. And outside of video-chatting with her younger sister and father back home–sis wants to be hanging ten with her, dad wants to know when she’s returning to med school–Nancy simply wants to spend the daylight hours hitting the waves. In honor of her mother. She chats briefly with a couple of other board enthusiasts, but other than that–it’s time to get wet. Soon the other surfing dudes leave, so Nancy is all alone. Did someone say “shark”?
Jaume Collet-Serra has directed a tight, economical package, with a low-budget, but high thrills. So much falls on Lively’s face and action, and she totally pulls it off. Stuck on a rock in the ocean, stuck on a buoy–to swim, or not to swim. It’s all very tense and exciting. There’s an injury, followed by some self surgery. There’s a drunk that wanders onto the beach–then makes the mistake of going into the water. Best shark thriller since “Jaws”? I’ve heard that floated. Yeah–could be. Plus, there’s a nice little bit of gravitas thrown in with the family dynamics…which actually leads to a nifty little epilogue. Shark looks half real/half fake…but that’s the pattern with CGI, right. And the film has grossed over 60 million on a 17 million dollar budget. Nice. I was rooting for “The Shallows”. It’s a win.