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Review: Shark thriller ‘The Shallows’ stays afloat

Blake Lively takes on a shark in this effective, minimalist thriller

Adam Graham
The Detroit News

Forty summers after “Jaws” made us afraid to go in the water, the simple sight of a shark fin is still enough to chill us to the bone.

So we can thank “Jaws” for “The Shallows,” a minimalist summer white knuckler that effectively plays on our pre-existing dread of sharks and the open water.

Director Jaume Collet-Serra doesn’t overdo things, staging a simple story that pits woman against shark, and he doesn’t overstay his welcome, delivering a tidy thriller that wraps up in under 90 minutes.

That woman is Nancy (Blake Lively), a young medical student from Texas traveling in Mexico who catches an afternoon of surfing on a secluded, secret beach.

She paddles out into the tide and catches a few waves, and paddles a little further when she spots a dead whale floating in the water. That’s when she makes the acquaintance of a great white, which introduces itself by taking a rather large bite of her leg. She then makes her way to a rock about 200 yards away from the shore and tries to make it safely to land.

Collet-Serra, director of Liam Neeson movies (he’s made “Non-Stop,” “Run All Night” and “Unknown” with Neeson), brings steady, visceral chills, sparingly showing the shark early on and letting its presence be its own menace.

Lively is perhaps a bit too calm and together, especially considering she’s nursing a gaping wound and has only an apple in her stomach. But for what it is, “The Shallows” works. It’s just as much about our own fears and what we bring to it as what’s up on screen.

agraham@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2284

Twitter: @grahamorama

‘The Shallows’

GRADE: B-

Rated PG-13: for bloody images, intense sequences of peril, and brief strong language