Oh to be a fly on the wall in the original pitch for The Shallows. You can picture it now. A cigar smoke filled room, a group of stuffy looking studio executives smugly nodding as the concept of girl stranded on a rock being stalked by a giant great white shark is laid out before them.
“Can she be gorgeous?”
Nods all around in full agreement. “And shot like the bikini issue of Sports Illustrated?”
“Hear, hear” the room would chant. And finally, lurking somewhere in the shadows, an aging exec with enough box office dollars to his name to essentially make him a god would lean forward, cigarette perched between his lips a la Cancer Man from The X-Files.
“Let’s cast Blake Lively, and find ourselves a director how knows how to rack up the tension to full tilt.”
And therein, as a pure exercise in speculation, is presumably how The Shallows was born. Is it a stupid piece of B-movie cinema? Yes, wholeheartedly so. But a great B-movie isn’t striving to make you think, it isn’t to challenge your sense of right or wrong, or show anything resembling a character arc. These are lies fed to you by the likes of Spielberg (who for the record need not worry about seeing Jaws lose ‘Best Shark Movie Ever’ mantle to The Shallows) and Ridley Scott who made monsters movies that surpassed their creature origins.
All you need to know about The Shallows is it is a film intended to tap into your basic sense of fight of flight. Because at first Lively’s character, who is conveniently a med-school dropout, wants to swim / surf her problems away. But when big teeth and a bad attitude get in her way her only friend is a seagull called Steven Seagull and the will to survive.
It’s bat-crap crazy, especially the climax which descends into such Hollywood nonsense it will leave you chuckling with both lunacy and satisfaction. But it’s fun. Pure and simple, stupid fun. The Shallows isn’t intended to be anything else. And if the powers that be in Hollywood know one thing it’s to give the people what they want. Occasionally, when the nights draw in and little gold statues are being handed out they want smart cinema, but for the most part they want ‘switch-off the brain’ entertainment. Kind of like watching endless videos of cats falling off things on Youtube.
What do you love about Instagram? Holiday destinations, beautiful people and cool wildlife probably. That’s The Shallows, it shouldn’t work but it really does.