Nancy Adams (Lively), a medical student, decides to take a break and head out on a surfing vacation in Mexico. Her chosen spot is idyllic and gorgeous as far as beaches and blue waters go. The dream holiday turns into a nightmare when she finds herself in the feeding grounds of a great white shark. Although she is stranded only 200 yards from shore, survival proves to be the ultimate test of will, requiring all of Nancy's ingenuity, resourcefulness and fortitude.
The Shallows, at first, seems like an almost languid and tranquil vacation movie. We have Nancy, who is an avid surfer in search for the perfect wave, finding a sea of serenity in her perfect vacation spot. She sits out on the beach, gazing at the distant horizon while overhead an albatross circles lazily amidst azure skies. Nancy Skypes her family, saying how happy she is. Then without much further ado, she grabs her surfboard and heads into the brine. A few fellow lug-headed surfers make fun of her American accent, thinking that she is just another clueless tourist. Little do they know that she is better qualified than any of them in survival skills - let alone being an excellent swimmer - being a med student.
Thanks to the frankly excellent cinematography by Flavio Labiano, you will find yourself feeling the very same sense of anxiousness and urgency that Nancy herself feels as she is stranded on a craggy rock, with nature's most voracious and merciless predator circling the waters around her. The irony is that she can see the shore and safety, but to get to it, would amount to a herculean task. Mention must be made of the evocative film score courtesy composer Marco Beltrami (Hurt Locker, The Wolverine, Woman In Black, Resident Evil to name a few) that really adds to the edge-of-your-seat fear factor in this film.
Okay, Collet-Serra has taken a few liberties (read: many gratuitous close-ups of Lively's pert posterior) here but all said and done, this is without a doubt the actress' most daring and challenging role to date. Blake Lively, take a bow. You rock.