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Saturday, June 25, 2016

The Shallows



The Shallows, director Jaume Collet-Serra's sun-kissed, bloody good Blue Crush-meets-Jaws mashup thriller, is Blake Lively's The Revenant. In The Shallows, Lively plays a medical student mourning the death of her mother by escaping to surf the unnamed Mexican beach her mother once surfed. Though her journey to this spectacular paradise (the name of the beach is assiduously guarded by the locals), mildly echos a different Leonardo DiCaprio movie, The Beach, soon Lively is pitted body and soul against the ocean's most ferocious killing machine. There's a Great White shark in them there waters, and it's hell bent on taking Blake's livelihood in a manner even the bear DiCaprio fought in The Revenant wasn't. This damn shark wants Blake Lively to be his chum, and not in a friendly way.

Like DiCaprio in The Revenant, Lively endures a physical and emotional hell in her efforts to survive. When the shark attacks Lively and soon makes shark meat out of the two other surfers she befriended, Lively's only recourse is to take refuge on a jagged, shallow reef 200 yards from shore. Time is against her. High tide will once again submerge her meager shelter. She's exposed to the elements. And she's grievously injured; beyond multiple cuts and abrasions, the shark chomped on her leg. Gangrene threatens to set in. Pleasingly, Lively is no damsel in distress. Through up against impossible odds, Lively gathers her wits and thinks her way out of her dilemma. She uses her medical training and her earrings to rather gruesomely suture her wounds. She uses her Body Glove to create a tourniquet. She even sets the broken wing of her lone companion, a scene-stealing seagull she names Steven Seagull. (Lively uses Steven Seagull as a decoy kind of like how Batman uses Robin.) As Lively's options narrow, the shark remains relentlessly on patrol, drawn to the steady streams of Lively's blood in the water.

When the shark enters a realm of sheer malevolence that goes beyond what one would believe even a hungry Great White would actually do, The Shallows, which had remained mostly compellingly straightforward, teeters on the brink of jumping the shark in the third act. As high tide takes her reef under, Lively's last desperate gambit is to swim to a nearby buoy. The shark's dogged pursuit has it literally tearing through the metal of the buoy in order to sink its teeth in Lively. And yet, Lively's last ditch maneuver to kill the shark, while sheer lunacy, is surprisingly rousing. On screen for nearly every second of the entire movie, Lively gives a heroic - nay, superheroic - performance. As physically perfect as she is when The Shallows begins, Lively, broken, bleeding, exhausted, and nearly drowned, achieves an awesome level of total bad assery in her climactic showdown with the shark. Even if one in jest were to command,"Physician, CPR thyself," to the shark's chagrin, Blake Lively does. The shark bet on Blake losing the dead pool, but it was sorely mistaken.