Susan Granger’s review of “The Shallows” (Columbia Pictures/Sony)
Still grieving over the death of her mother, Nancy (Blake Lively) is a medical school drop-out who decides to pay an homage visit and surf on her mother’s favorite Mexican beach: a remote, jungle-enshrouded crescent-shaped cove that’s almost totally deserted.
After making a few phone calls to check-in with her dad and younger sister in Galveston, Texas, Nancy zips on the top of her wetsuit, tethers her foot to her surfboard and wades into the waves.
A strong swimmer, Nancy soon catches up with two Spanish-speaking dudes who are also enjoying the exhilarating surf; one is wearing a GoPro camera on his head.
After a while, Nancy returns to the beach to munch a late lunch she’d stored in her backpack and then decides to return to the clear, turquoise-blue lagoon for one last run, just as the guys head home.
That’s when an enormous shark surfaces. It’s a Great White that’s been lured close to shore, chomping on the carcass of a dead blue whale. With Nancy now in his feeding grounds, he bites her thigh.
Shark facts: Because sharks don’t have hands or tentacles, they explore with their mouths and teeth – and surfers are particularly vulnerable, far more than swimmers, because they paddle further from shore, dangling their limbs the water.
To escape the encircling fin, ever-resourceful Nancy, whose leg is bleeding profusely, crawls up on a jagged rock about 200 yards off-shore – with only a wounded seagull for company. It’s low tide, so she’s safe – temporarily. When the tide reverses, the sea will engulf her precarious perch.
Scripted by Anthony Jaswinski, scored by composer Marco Baltrami, and directed by Jaume Collet-Serra (“Unknown,” “Non-Stop”), it’s a tension-packed survival thriller – with terrific underwater shots as Australia subs for Mexico.
Statuesque Blake Lively (TV’s “Gossip Girl”), who did 75% of her own stunts, darts about wearing a teeny-weenie bikini – until, unfortunately, the denouement falls flat.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “The Shallows” is a scary, suspenseful 6, causing a feeding frenzy at the box-office.