Shark on Fire
Up until the closing moments, The Shallows makes for a firm, lonely thriller. Blake Lively’s terrified looks add legitimacy to the concept of someone stranded just off-shore as a shark swims near. Some unexpected gore sharpens the threat (which some misplaced laughs weaken) and the leisurely pace raises the stakes throughout. It’s a shame the movie finds closure in a blast of unlikely, even absurd action – up to and including a shark set ablaze.
The dazzling Australian location (and digitally extended water tank footage) drapes The Shallows in endless beauty. Saturated, clear water surrounds Blake Lively at all times, while the shoreline feeds a slew of trees. Their greens and the brilliant blue skyline douse the screen in color.
With natural exterior light, contrast blossoms. Intense sunlight beams down and onto the water. As such, the screen fills with attractive brightness. When the sun goes down, it’s disappointing, but black levels are there to help dimensionality. Cinematography likewise holds together, preserving the absurdly strong facial detail even without the light. Scenery presents with the same lavish resolution.
Certain scenes involve a GoPro, naturally carrying less resolution than the main cameras. Since it’s typically Lively speaking to the camera, close-ups still produce ample fidelity. Sony’s AVC encoding, so rarely if ever inadequate, keeps compression away even during difficult scenes. Aerial views of choppy water and gorgeous surfing sequences (splashing water everywhere) create no errant concerns. Picky viewers will note a hint of noise (particularly in moments involving visual effects) but this isn’t a detriment. A single shot is impacted to any great degree.
Take the best surfing documentary, add in studio cinematography, and you end up with The Shallows. Forget whatever 4K nature outings try and work their way at the start of the format’s life – The Shallows does it better. Crispness of the waves combined with the intensity of sunlight reflecting off creates a marvelous images.
Gorgeous color plays into each shot, the location shoot a stunner with marvelously resolved tree lines and beach sand visible to the finest grains. Blake Lively’s close-ups display reference level clarity.
At night, HDR effects kick in to maintain beautiful shadow gradients. Deep blacks work to their densest peaks. The finale, a bit desaturated, still holds some brilliant cool tones, more of a muted gray on Blu-ray. Likewise, the sun-drenched sections make for prime demo material. Don’t let a bit of inconsistent noise sour this one. It’s too good for that.
Water rushes from the left in the first frame of The Shallows. Said water plays a critical role throughout, spreading through the sound channels and creating flawless seaside ambience. Huge waves add the necessary rush of LFE. All of this comes together when underwater, those surfing scenes being strong performers.
Circling seagulls becomes an audio fixation early on. This happens in tandem with the water which continues to maintain its spread. In a bit of fun trickery, an entire off-screen kill comes from the rear right, an added, powerful low-end extension completing the effect. As if showing off, once Lively steps onto the buoy, audio tracks the side-to-side movement, a typically unnecessary touch which shows the sound mixer paid attention. A fun track.
The UHD goes a bit further with a Dolby Atmos offering, carrying all of the above with a more natural soundstage. Particularly great is the off-screen kill, now in a different location. All of the water effects sound richer with cleaner dynamics and still a strong low-end crunch as needed.
Three deleted scenes come first, and the initial one is the smartest cut of the lot. Four featurettes follow, between six and eight minutes each. Shooting in the Shallows focuses on the difficulties of ocean shooting, and location scouting gets its due in Finding the Perfect Beach. All of the details from the shark design come in during How to Build a Shark, and real world attack survivors speak up in When Sharks Attack.
Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process. Patreon supporters were able to access these screens early, view them as .pngs, and gain access to exclusives.