Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Shallows

87 minutes. I mentioned in the weekly preview that there were three movies of that length coming out this week (the others are Three and Therapy for a Vampire), and it's a trend I'm in favor of, especially for movies that are like these: Entertaining enough, but not necessarily doing a lot more than selling popcorn, and when that's the case, there's not necessarily much reason for it to last longer than it takes to get to the bottom of the bag.

Which isn't to say that there's no worth in this movie; I was, by the end, plenty enthusiastic to see Blake Lively's character deal with the shark, and there seemed to be a fair amount of excitement for it in the audience around me. More of it would have just stretched the thing too far - heck, you could argue that the "one year later" minute or two at the end was too much. We're invested in Nancy not being eaten by a shark, not by her being closer to her dad or a role model to her kid sister, and that scene probably wasn't really needed - end her rescue with her saying what the EMS folks need to do because "I'm going to be a doctor" and you've tied up that loose end.

Then again, we've all see much worse examples of that sort of thing, and Jaume Collet-Serra knows his way around a B-movie, so it turned out pretty well. I'm mildly surprised the Somerville doesn't put a trailer for its Jaws weekend in front of this, but then again, why remind people watching a pretty good shark movie about what a masterpiece of the genre looks like?

The Shallows

* * * (out of four)
Seen 25 June 2016 in Somerville Theatre #4 (first-run, DCP)

Looking at a Pulp Covers blog a few weeks ago, I noted that men's magazines of the 1950s seemed to alternate between scantily-clad women and first-person narratives of unlikely survival, although you seldom saw both in the same place. Would the consumers of those magazines, I wonder, see The Shallows as a holy grail unifying all that is good about entertainment or a wholly misguided attempt to combine two things meant to be kept separate.Or, perhaps, something in between, a capable bit of entertainment that delivers the shark-based suspense it promises and doesn't get bogged down doing so.

A quick flash-forward promises mayhem, we meet Nancy (Blake Lively), who is in Mexico to surf the secret beach her mother visited while while pregnant with her twenty-five years ago. It's a great beach, and she meets a couple of nice guys there... and then, while catching one last wave as they depart, she finds a whale carcass, with the shark that killed it between her and the shore.

It's an elegantly simple set-up, and the temptation to complicate it must have been immense, wither with more characters or flashbacks to her family that go beyond a few photographs stored on her phone. Instead, writer Anthony Jaswinski and director Jaume Collet-Serra are able to treat a sleek 87-minute length as spacious, with time to watch Nancy consider her situation and next move between scenes where she confronts the shark while still having plenty of those. It's impressive restraint on the part of Jaswinski, Collet-Serra, and editor Joel Negron; they could have padded it out five more minutes and potentially wrecked the pacing, or worried earlier on about pinning its success to one actress. Instead, they keep focused on what the audience wants to see, giving that audience just enough time to breathe but not enough that they might want more.

Full review on EFC.

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