If you’re an admirer of Blake Lively (Savages, The Age of Adaline), see The Shallows, for it’s a fair bet that no movie ever again will devote to her so much adoring screen time. Essentially (though not literally) a one-man show á la Castaway, this surf-and-shark tale, a cunning little B-movie from Spanish genre whiz Jaume Collet-Serra (House of Wax, Orphan, Run All Night) revels in Lively’s Californian limbs and freckles, her sun-blanched healthy wholesomeness. It cannot get enough of her.
She plays Nancy, a med student on a pilgrimage to a “secret beach” in Mexico that her surfer mother told her about before succumbing to cancer. While surfing there she accidentally infringes on a shark’s dinnertime, and the shark comes after her. Survival ensues.
It may not be great, but it is bloody good. It’s crazy tight, extremely well thought-out (as another critic noted, by halfway through we the audience are totally in command of the bay’s logistics) and Lively, mostly in close-up and mostly in peril, is excellent; indeed, perfect. It’s hard to imagine her being nominated for serious awards for this role, but it must be said that Meryl Streep herself couldn’t do it better. It’s a fully believable and utterly absorbing genre performance. I will await her next movie eagerly, although I suspect that The Shallows is going to remain her signature role for quite a while. And she has every reason to be proud of that.