According to IMDb, Jaume Collet-Serra's over-before-you-know-it The Shallows runs for one hour and 27 minutes -- a number that produces a reaction something like when an NBA roster lists a short-looking player at five-foot-nine and you marvel, Really? Nate Robinson is that tall? The thriller, pitting Blake Lively's Nancy against a shark, has only three or four characters who even justify the inclusion of first names.
Even more so than Collet-Serra's agile collaborations with Liam Neeson (Unknown, Non-Stop, Run All Night), The Shallows is all forward motion with little-to-no filler — a get-in-and-get-out number that hits its marks and, thanks to Collet-Serra's stylistic ingenuity, boasts knockout moments that no other director would have thought to stage in the same way. The Shallows transcends its formulaic plotting when Collet-Serra takes the gloves off and gets a little disgusting. Nancy's knowledge of the human anatomy (she's a jaded med-school student thinking about dropping out) inspires her to attempt and accomplish survival miracles that would make an average person pass out.
This kind of relentless, fast-paced decision-making can be freeing for an actor, and if The Shallows can be said to produce any revelations -- "Sharks are scary" and "Blake Lively looks good in an orange bikini" are things you know going in -- it's that Lively can easily carry a movie all by herself. She's so responsive to the physical parameters of the scenario that she just takes the assignment beat-by-beat. There's hardly a minute where her character isn't thinking through or formulating some sort of plan or scanning the horizon for new information; as a result, Lively is equally present in every moment, toting the story along without a hitch.