Copyright © 2016 by Columbia Pictures
Travelling to Mexico, Nancy Adams (Blake Lively) is taken by Carlos (Óscar Jaenada) to the same beach her mother used to surf while pregnant with Nancy. She meets two local surfers and they surf together for several hours. The locals leave but she stays on. While waiting for a wave, the medical student discovers a dead humpback whale and decides to leave shortly after. On her way back, she is bitten by a great white shark. Bleeding profusely, she swims to safety and settles on a detached reef. Only 200 yards to shore, Nancy’s medical background and athleticism will be her greatest assets of outsmarting the shark.
Having found success with high-concept films such as ‘Orphan’, ‘Unknown’ and ‘Non-Stop’, Jaume Collet-Serra’s latest dives into well-charted waters that resurfaces as a survival piece of (wo)man versus beast at its most extreme. His flair to ground implausible circumstances is the reason a homicidal dwarf and an amnesiac assassin remains logically affecting.
It is the Spaniard’s ingenuity and Anthony Jaswinski’s succinct script that distinguishes the collaborative effort from gratuitous B-movie fun to a star vehicle for ‘Gossip Girl’ cast member, Lively. Set in an impossible condition and equipped with merely her wits, Nancy joins the ranks of Dr Ryan Stone (‘Gravity’) and Aron Ralston (‘127 Hours’) as this year’s lone survivor in peril.
Partly inspired by her husband, Ryan Reynolds’ stunning and woeful portrayal in ‘Buried’, Lively is viscerally convincing as a woman tormented by a sadistic fish to a sunnier ending. The pain she enacts while stitching herself up without any anesthesia is eerily conveyed and her lighter moments are represented amusingly with her newfound friend, Steven, an injured seagull.
At least Steven is real (enough) for our heroine to interact with and proves invaluable for her attempts in escaping; Tom Hanks has a Wilson volleyball. Cognizant of Nancy’s characterisation and motivations justifies her independence and fearlessness despite its slender running time. Add to Flavio Labiano’s breathtaking cinematography, deftly capturing the oceanic waves just before the storm, wouldn’t you be tempted for a swim in the shallows?
Rated PG-13 for bloody images, intense sequences of peril, and brief strong language