This brisk and brutal survival thriller impresses with its stripped-down, back-to-basics approach
Since time immemorial (well, 1975) Hollywood has been obsessed with making movies about people being eaten by sharks. The past decade, in particular, has seen the predatory piscine sub-genre go into overdrive, thanks largely to the availability of low-cost digital effects. But in a world of gimmicky fish flicks like Shark in Venice and Ghost Shark, slick survival movie The Shallows is a breath of salty air.
The film stars Blake Lively as Nancy, a holidaying medical student who goes surfing at a secluded beach. Before long, she's attacked by a great white shark and finds herself stranded on rocks a couple of hundred yards from shore. And that's basically all there is to it (give or take a rusty buoy, an injured seagull and a rotting whale carcass).
Stripping away all of the unnecessary excesses that have come to typify the killer shark film, The Shallows is able to focus in on the key ingredients: an attractive girl in a bikini and a hungry aquatic beast. In doing so it serves up a truly primal story of (wo)man vs nature.
Blake Lively deserves plenty of praise for a gutsy performance that sees her transition from battered and bruised shark attack survivor to marine MacGuyver. However, the real star is director Jaume Collet-Sera, until now best known for helming a trio of enjoyable Liam Neeson thrillers (Unknown, Non-Stop and Run All Night). Bringing the same visceral energy and stylistic verve to The Shallows as he did to those films, Collet-Sera transforms what would otherwise have been a trashy exploitation movie into a genuinely thrilling and beautiful piece of cinematic entertainment.
Picture: Thanks to its lush tropical setting and crisp digital photography, The Shallows swims onto BD with a gorgeous 2.40:1-framed 1080p transfer.
From aquatic blues to deep crimson reds, the colour palette is beautifully saturated, while black levels are rock solid. Fine detailing also impresses, with close-ups of Nancy's wet suit revealing a wealth of textures. Indeed, outside of a few brief bursts of in-film footage shot by a surfer's GoPro camera, The Shallows delivers reference-quality imagery from start to end.
Picture rating: 5/5
Audio: The film's DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix is an atmospheric affair that is kept busy throughout with the sound of the sea lapping around you. Naturally, things get much more dynamic during the action set-pieces, lending the shark attacks considerable aural support. Meanwhile, music and dialogue are prioritised in the mix and are reproduced flawlessly.
Audio rating: 4.5/5
Extras: In addition to three deleted scenes and three Making of… featurettes – Shooting in The Shallows (six minutes), How to Build a Shark (seven minutes) and Finding the Perfect Beach: Lord Howe Island (six minutes) – Sony's HD platter includes a short video talking to a real-life shark attack survivor. A film this entertaining deserves better.
Extras rating: 2/5
We say: A stunning HD presentation of a killer survival flick. Shame about the lack of extras, though.
The Shallows, Sony Pictures, All-region BD, £25
HCC VERDICT: 4/5
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