The Shallows

Man versus shark. Or, in this case, woman versus shark. Yes, you’ll think of Jaws, but The Shallows is different. As with Jaws, the chills and tingles come early and often.

Nancy Adams (Blake Lively) is a 20-something med school student from Texas. She is also a talented surfer. She is dropped off at an out-of-the-way beach in Mexico. It’s the beach that her late mother visited when she became pregnant with Nancy.

In the water, she chats with a couple of locals on their boards. They ride waves together. After the locals head in for the day, Nancy senses something is amiss. An injured whale floats nearby, victim of an attack by an enormous great white shark.

It is not a spoiler to reveal that the shark attacks Nancy. She survives and takes refuge atop the whale. Later she manages to move to a nearby rock, just a few hundred yards from shore. Here she uses her jewelry to close her leg wound in a scene that’s not for the squeamish.

Those of us who saw Jaws 41 summers ago knew—due to reams of advance publicity for the film—that Spielberg’s shark was a dummy. The shark in The Shallows (who gets significant screen time) appears more real.

Nancy spends the night on the rock, along with a bloodstained bird that managed to escape the shark. When the two locals return to surf the next day, she tries to warn them away but their outcome is not a happy one.

As she prepares to spend a second night on the rock with the shark nearby and the tide rising, she plots her next moves that might ensure her survival.

Director Jaume Collet-Serra (who directed the 2014 suspense thriller Non-Stop and last year’s Run All Night) keeps the tension level at a simmer between moments of terror. Prepare to jump a few times during the film’s compact 85-minute runtime.

Blake Lively does an admirable job of communicating her upset/horror of the situation without overplaying the role. She’s not the only human character in The Shallows, but it’s her film to win or lose and she wins.

 

 

 

 

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Savages

Good and evil—sometimes the lines get blurred.

Two good-looking guys who are big buds also grow big buds. In fact, their pot is so potent that a Mexican drug gang wants to distribute their product. The two men, played by Taylor Kitsch and Aaron Johnson, are such good friends that they share a gorgeous blonde girlfriend, played by Blake Lively.

These two drug dealers are the apparent good guys. Sure, they are committing felonies on a daily basis, but they are also sending money to Africa and Asia to help poor kids and they provide their killer weed to a crooked DEA agent (played by John Travolta) whose wife who is in pain, dying from cancer.

Then you have the Mexicans who are the apparent bad guys. The Mexicans include Benicio Del Toro and Salma Hayek. We are introduced to them via a gruesome decapitation video. They torture people, they shoot people, they kidnap people. Worst of all, they refuse to negotiate. Their offer to our “good guys” is a “take it or leave it.” When the good guys leave it, the bad guys kidnap the blonde.

That’s when things get really ugly. That’s when good goes bad. That’s when bad, well, doesn’t exactly go good, but shows some human emotion.

Director Oliver Stone’s depictions of violence are direct: sadistic, brutal, and bloody. And they are more realistic that the stylized scenes of violence in a Tarentino film.

In “Savages,” the story we see and the changes the characters undergo are really more important than the film’s ultimate conclusion. If you like a good action film and can handle some violence and gore, take a deep hit of “Savages,” get Oliver Stoned and enjoy the buzz.