Just judging by the trailer, I pretty much dismissed this as a “The Shallows” knock-off with two women instead of Blake Lively. And even though it still pretty much is—don’t pretend this would’ve gotten made if “The Shallows” had flopped last year during the exact same time period—it’s more than worth watching on a big screen just to get lost in the nightmarish oceanic visuals.
What Works: This tale of two sisters (the bland but likeable Mandy Moore and Claire Holt) who go on the excursion from hell in Mexico gets off to a slow start, but once the cable holding up their rickety shark diving cage snaps the movie more than makes up for it. From there, almost the entirety of the last two thirds is set underwater—this is one of the only non-submarine films that takes place majority under the water—and the ocean has never looked so dangerous. It’s a thriller where they’re not just fighting sharks but time as they’ve only got so long before they run out of oxygen. The fight for resources as they face nature’s most perfect killing machine makes this a classic survival tale, and the terrifying opaqueness of the ocean (some scenes look like the inside of an oil painting) is put to good use in sequences like the first-person POV through pitch black waters. And even though the ending has inspired boos among some audiences, I think it perfectly caps the nightmare surrealism of everything that came before it.
What Doesn’t: Although I didn’t mind some of the script’s terrible dialogue—“A shark almost ate me!” “We’re running out of air!”—others will definitely laugh during moments that should be suspenseful. I just chalk it up to the fact that people don’t usually make perfect sense when they’re scared to death.
What I Would Have Done Differently: Although this movie is in some ways better-staged than “The Shallows” and the fact that it’s set almost entirely underwater definitely ups the tension, it might’ve made more sense to space out their releases a bit more so some audiences don’t feel like they’ve been there, screamed at that.