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