Netflix & Chill: 420 Edition – ‘The Shallows’

by Anya Jaremko-Greenwold

I already recommended a shark movie in this column (“Deep Blue Sea” a few weeks back), but “The Shallows” is currently in theaters, and there’s nothing like big screen blue waters teeming with blood and chum to get your stoned heart racing. “Shallows” stars Blake Lively, who has been a sweet if uninspiring presence in most of the lower-stakes projects she’s taken on (“Gossip Girl,” “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.”) The stakes are higher here, since Lively is tasked with carrying an entire film by herself. She’s practically the only human character we see on-screen. Lively plays Nancy, a surfer stranded on a rock a mere 200 yards from shore after being bitten by a great white shark. Most survival movies star dudes: “127 Hours,” “Cast Away,” even “Buried” featuring Lively’s husband Ryan Reynolds trapped in a coffin.

But Nancy is every bit as tough as those guys. She’s a med school dropout whose mother just passed away from cancer, and she’s visiting a secluded Mexican beach for a grief-charged surfing respite. Nancy suspects her chosen profession is possibly pointless, as medicine couldn’t save her mom. Not surprisingly, this despairing attitude is challenged when she’s stalked by the great white; a dead whale carcass floats nearby, signifying that she’s stumbled upon his feeding grounds. With a bleeding leg and a bird buddy she affectionately dubs “Steven Seagull” (he’s basically Wilson in “Cast Away,”) Nancy has to find a way off the rock and past the shark’s gnashing teeth before she bleeds out.

“The Shallows” is frightening until the shark begins to make his fleshy appearance. Don’t expect the sustained tension of “Jaws” here. This movie is visually dreamy, all aquamarine and dappled tropical sunlight streaking through waves, and director Jaume Collet-Serra collects plenty of good, long looks at Lively’s lithe, tan legs and sun-kissed golden tresses. The camera is as predatory as the fish itself. But the shark is CGI, not animatronic like in “Jaws,” and you can tell he’s a computer creation. Being stoned might help get you past that – god knows a good indica will heighten situations and sensations – but he’s undeniably elastic-looking. CGI won’t ever fool the human eye. Still, this is a better summer blockbuster than most.

Anya Jaremko-Greenwold

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