Tag Archives: thrills and spills

FILM REVIEW: The Shallows

There’s only one thing worse than a rubbish shark-based thriller – and that’s a rubbish shark-based thriller that initially hints at having a little bit of promise.

The Shallows, regrettably, is one such film.

Nancy (Blake Lively), has dropped out from her medical studies and is taking a vacation in Mexico in order to try to come to terms with the death of her mother. She’s on a very personal mission to find her mother’s favourite ‘secret’ beach; a remote cove tucked away from civilisation in which the pair of them had shared some wonderful memories in the past.

A keen surfer, she plans to ride the impressive waves that crash onto this beautiful beach.

Unfortunately for her, she’s managed to coincide her watery frolics with the sinister intentions of a great white shark, hell-bent on guarding its feeding grounds, having recently killed a large whale whose huge carcass is now wedged within the rocks and coral of ‘the shallows’.

It’s fair to say, this probably isn’t going to be a good day for Nancy, and it certainly isn’t going to end well – a little like this film.

Granted, there’s not too much here to hang an entire feature film upon. The promise of thrills and spills in the shallow waters of the ocean combined with a rather bolted-on back-story of family bonds, love and respect, are meagre ingredients with which to whip up anything original or of note.

In fairness though to Blake Lively, she makes a fairly decent fist of what she’s given here as she walks and talks us through the bleedin’ obvious by way of a sort of lightly-pained monologue, punctuated on increasingly frequent occasion by grisly moments of misfortune and gore.

It’s all very slick. Too slick in fact.

Smart phone screens flash up on screen unnecessarily, relaying text conversations. Nancy’s divers watch display flashes up too, counting down the minutes until the small rocky oasis that she’s found herself marooned upon, will become submerged beneath the water, leaving her effectively as shark bait.

This should at least make for slightly tense proceedings, if not riveting viewing.

It doesn’t.

A more sympathetic director would have perhaps provided a permanent clock display on screen throughout the film’s duration, providing a countdown until the end credits.

The Shallows is a film in which absolutely nothing is left to the imagination. Everything is played out like a sort of shark movie-making guide for beginners, step by painful step, but with no mischievous sense of irony. Everything ties up neatly according to a set of circumstances and parameters that are absolutely shoved into our collective face, one by one, throughout the film’s eighty-four or so minutes.

If all of the above was the sum total of the film’s crimes against cinema, you could write the whole thing off as a reasonably harmless, yet hugely forgettable use of your time, and not think twice about it. But having hinted from the off that it might – just might – have the potential to be a cult B movie of note, it’s the at first gradual, and eventually rapid degeneration of this film into pure, mindless Hollywood guff that is so achingly disappointing.

And the less said about the film’s pitiful conclusion, the better.

For some reason it all brought to mind a Laurel & Hardy skit in which the hapless pair’s best bungling efforts ended – as they always do – with everything falling down (literally) on top of Olly, but in a painfully drawn out, staggered sequence of carnage, each tumble and fall worse than the previous one, culminating in Hardy, sat on his arse in a pile of dust, rubble and debris; and as he takes one final, unimpressed look at the camera, another brick falls on his head, and then another, and then a long pause, another resigned look at the camera, and then another brick, right on the head – complete with comedy sound effects.

Just when you think it can’t get any worse…

‘Shallows’ by name, shallow by nature.






The Palio is the oldest horse race in the world, run in the central piazza of the beautiful Italian city of Siena. Preceded by much pageantry, it is a full throttle affair, encapsulating Italian society and the ‘system’ in which it operates, in a microcosm.
Run twice a year, every summer, it offers the residents of Siena’s various districts a chance to claim bragging rights in the city.
Palio is a  documentary which focuses on the 2013 and 2014 Palios and the intense rivalry between both rival districts and race jockeys, alike.
Gigi Bruschelli is the corrupt veteran of the race and the prime scalp that all others seek to dislodge. Giovanni Atzeni is his once trainee; a gifted, twenty-eight year old, level-headed prodigy and pretender to Bruschelli’s throne.
These two, amongst others, go head to head in a bid to be crowned champion, pitting experienced know-how against youthful determination.
If rivalries between two legendary, retired champions of yesteryear are anything to go by, there’s certainly no love loss between the Palio’s jockeys. With their outspoken re-writing of history, tensions continue to simmer between them in largely comedic fashion, many years after they’ve hung up their caps and whips. Their passion for the Palio, like everyone else’s, seems undimmed by the passage of time.
It’s a very well put together account, which, much like recent documentaries Amy and Senna, steers away from the conventional talking heads type of delivery, opting instead for largely incidental commentary, giving the film a free, less  structured feel to it and a strong sense of authenticity.
Sadly,  the saying: “and don’t spare the horses” has never been more appropriate, with eleven or twelve of them careering around the perilous piazza track, jockey whips flailing about wildly as both horses and jockeys are subjected to their leathery justice in ferocious fashion.
We only have to think of the Spanish Running of the Bulls or the Shearing of the Beasts to realise that human beings, the world over, seem only too willing to hold dear to archaic traditions that have scant regard for the well being of animals and The Palio, admittedly to a lesser extent, is no exception.
This whip-cracking, thunderous romp around a sharp-cornered, dusty track, preceded by the vociferous chanting of proud inhabitants of Lupa, Eagle, Porcupine and other assorted districts, whilst being an admittedly impressive spectacle, is just another example of disregard for animal life and the fact that the tone of the film is so overwhelmingly reverential, just leaves me cold.
‘Rocky on horseback’ they say?
Well, perhaps, but the prevailing sentiment remains.
On another level, The Palio is essentially silly little boys games taken way too seriously, never summed up more than when the church gets involved, going so far as to bless the winning horse and rider in the Cathedral itself; all the while, surrounded by a massed, frenzied crowd.
If we can manage to disassociate ourselves for a moment from any such negativity that surrounds Palio (and I do appreciate that that is in itself a subjective thing), as a pure spectacle of raw human passion and tub-thumping pride, it takes some beating and it’s understandable how locals and tourists alike can get swept up in its frenzy of thrills and spills each summer.

It also says a lot that a really well crafted film, beautifully shot and edited and awash with a glorious, sumptuous 1960s era Ennio Morricone soundtrack, can leave one with such a feeling of indifference, bordering on disapproval.