The Shallows Movie Review
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The 2016 film Shallows, directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, is a thrilling survival story that takes place on a secluded beach in Mexico. The film follows Nancy (Blake Lively), a medical student who decides to take a break from her studies and surf alone on the beach. As she catches the last wave of the day, she discovers the body of a dead whale floating nearby. Suddenly, she is attacked by a great white shark and stranded on a rock only 200 yards away from shore.

The film has received mixed reviews since its release. While some viewers found it to be an intense and suspenseful thriller, others criticized it for its lack of character development and predictable plot. In this article, we will examine the strengths and weaknesses of Shallows and analyze what makes it stand out in the crowded genre of survival movies.

Plot Overview

The movie “Shallows” is a thrilling survival story that follows the journey of Nancy, a young surfer, who finds herself stranded in the middle of the ocean after being attacked by a great white shark. The plot starts with Nancy’s backstory, where we learn that she is a medical student who has taken some time off to travel and surf. She comes across a secluded beach in Mexico that her late mother had told her about and decides to catch some waves. After spending some time on the water, she discovers the body of a large humpback whale, which later attracts the attention of a massive great white shark.

As the tide rises, Nancy tries to head back to shore but gets attacked by the shark and badly injured. With no help in sight, she must use her wits and survival skills to stay alive and outsmart the predator that circles her every move. Throughout the movie, we witness both human and shark behavior at its most primal levels as they fight for their own survival. The film provides viewers with an intense experience as we see Nancy’s determination to survive despite all odds stacked against her. Overall, “Shallows” offers an exhilarating story that will keep you on edge until its dramatic conclusion.

Character Analysis: Nancy

As the protagonist of Shallows, Nancy’s character is well-developed and complex. Throughout the film, her motivation is clear: she wants to surf in memory of her mother and escape the stress of medical school. However, after being attacked by a shark and stranded on a rock in the middle of the ocean, Nancy’s motivations shift from personal to survival-based.

The character development seen in Nancy throughout the movie is impressive. Before the shark attack, she is shown as determined but inexperienced. Afterward, she becomes resourceful and quick-thinking in her fight to stay alive. The audience gets to see a different side of Nancy as she overcomes obstacles and learns how to adapt to her new surroundings. Overall, Blake Lively’s portrayal of Nancy is both convincing and engaging – making for a thrilling viewing experience.

Cinematography And Sound Design

The cinematography and sound design of Shallows blend together seamlessly to create a tense and immersive atmosphere that heightens the film’s suspenseful narrative. Director Jaume Collet-Serra employs a variety of camera angles and movement to emphasize the vastness and isolation of the ocean, while also capturing the terror of being stalked by a predator. The use of color is particularly striking, with vivid blues and greens contrasting sharply with the dark silhouette of the shark. This contrast enhances the visual impact of every encounter between protagonist Nancy (Blake Lively) and her pursuer, making each moment all the more harrowing.

The score complements the visuals perfectly, with a mix of orchestral arrangements and electronic beats that build tension throughout. The music often subsides during moments when Nancy must rely on her own wits to survive, only to surge back in when danger looms once again. The use of diegetic sound is also noteworthy, as Collet-Serra expertly manipulates ambient noise such as waves crashing or gulls squawking to enhance certain scenes. Overall, Shallows is an excellent example of how cinematography and sound design can work together to create an unforgettable cinematic experience.

Themes And Symbolism

The cinematography and sound design of Shallows significantly contribute to the overall quality of the film. The use of slow-motion shots, close-ups, and underwater perspectives creates a visually stunning experience that immerses viewers in the world of the protagonist, Nancy. Additionally, the sound design effectively builds tension and fear through its use of ominous music and realistic animal noises.

However, beyond its technical aspects, Shallows also presents themes and symbolism that add depth to its narrative. One prevalent symbol throughout the film is water itself, which serves as both a source of life and a potential cause of death. The underwater symbolism highlights Nancy’s fear of death as she fights for survival against a great white shark in the middle of an isolated beach. Furthermore, the film explores themes such as perseverance, facing one’s fears, and the power of determination in overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles. These elements elevate Shallows from being just another survival thriller to a thought-provoking piece that offers more than just jump scares.

Comparisons To Other Survival Films

Survival films have always been an intriguing subject for filmmakers and audiences alike. The genre has seen both the best and worst of films over the years. Shallows, directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, is a recent addition to this list of survival films. While the film received mixed reviews from critics, it does offer some interesting comparisons to other survival films.

One of the most significant impacts of survival films on cinema is that they challenge filmmakers to create something unique while still adhering to the genre’s conventions. Some of the best survival films like Cast Away, Life of Pi, and 127 Hours have managed to do this successfully. On the other hand, poorly executed survival films like The Revenant and Arctic fail to deliver a compelling story despite having excellent performances from their lead actors. In comparison, Shallows falls somewhere in between these two categories with its impressive cinematography but lackluster storyline.

Criticisms And Praises

While Shallows is a visually stunning film, it does come with some drawbacks. One of which is its lack of dramatic tension. The movie’s premise revolves around a young woman stranded in the middle of the ocean, fighting for survival against a great white shark. However, as the story progresses, the tension gradually fizzles out, and the audience is left with a predictable ending. While Blake Lively’s performance is commendable, her character’s emotional journey feels lacking and disconnected from the overall plot.

On the bright side, Shallows makes up for its flaws with its technical aspects. The cinematography is breathtakingly beautiful, capturing both the serenity and danger of the ocean in vivid detail. The use of close-ups and point-of-view shots during intense moments adds to the immersive experience, making viewers feel as though they are right there with Lively’s character. Furthermore, the sound design amplifies the terror of being alone in open waters while also highlighting its tranquil nature. Overall, while not without faults, Shallows still manages to be an entertaining film that showcases excellent technical prowess.

Final Verdict: Is Shallows Worth Watching?

In terms of cinematic value, The Shallows is a thrilling film that offers intense action sequences and stunning visuals. Blake Lively’s performance as Nancy, a surfer who becomes stranded on a rock in the middle of the ocean with a great white shark circling her, is commendable. She portrays the character’s determination to survive using her wits and survival tactics effectively.

The film also accurately depicts shark behavior and adds an educational aspect to its entertainment value. The movie shows how sharks are not mere “monsters” but rather apex predators that behave according to their instincts. Overall, The Shallows is worth watching for its engaging storyline, impressive cinematography, and realistic portrayal of shark behavior.


The Shallows is a thrilling survival film that will keep you on the edge of your seat from beginning to end. The plot follows Nancy, a surfer who becomes stranded on a rock in the middle of the ocean after being attacked by a great white shark. Blake Lively delivers an impressive performance as Nancy, showcasing both her physical and emotional strength as she fights for survival.

The cinematography and sound design are top-notch, immersing the audience in the intense and isolating atmosphere of being stranded in the ocean. Themes of perseverance and determination shine through, as well as symbolism surrounding the power and danger of nature. While some may criticize certain plot points and characterizations, overall, The Shallows is a must-see for fans of survival films and intense thrillers.

In conclusion, The Shallows is a visually stunning and emotionally gripping film that showcases both the beauty and brutality of nature. Blake Lively’s strong performance coupled with excellent cinematography and sound design make for an unforgettable viewing experience. While it may not be perfect, The Shallows is definitely worth watching for anyone looking for an intense survival story.

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