★★★ out of ★★★★★
Great White delivers some effective shark-attack–movie thrills with solid acting but not many new elements.
Directed by Martin Wilson
A summer without new shark movies just wouldn’t feel right, and this year we have director Martin Wilson’s Australia/U.S./U.K. coproduction Great White. It falls pretty firmly in the middle of the school for shark films, with a more realistic approach to things than the more absurd entries into the subgenre but offering little in the way of originality in regard to the offerings that attempt a more practical approach.
Former marine biologist Charlie (Aaron Jakubenko) and former nurse Kaz (Katrina Bowden) are a couple trying to catch up with their debts as they try to make a go of their charter seaplane startup business in Australia. The day they crossed each others’ paths was anything but a meet-cute, and Charlie still struggles with memories of the traumatic event that drew them together. Well-heeled couple Joji (Tim Kano) and Michelle (Kimie Tsukakoshi) book the couple’s services for a trip, with Michelle having a family reason for doing so. The couple’s company cook Benny (Te Kohe Tuhaka) accompanies the foursome to Hell’s Reef, but the trip goes awry when the group makes a grisly discovery and Charlie decides to do some further investigation involving a seemingly abandoned seacraft.
The big questions for films like Great White are (1) do the sharks look realistic, and (2) how good are the attack scenes and aftermaths? The GCI sharks are impressive, and though the attacks are mostly of the “being suddenly pulled underwater with blood pooling at the surface” variety, the special effects and makeup departments do show some nasty, quite effective victim remains and wounds.
Secondary to the above is the question of the strength of the human drama that surrounds the shark attacks. This is probably the weakest element of Great White, with Michael Boughen’s screenplay having hotheaded Joji snapping and siniping or alternatively complaining to the other four characters, and some tension regarding Michelle and Benny fueling the fire. Who will survive and who will become shark food is rather easy to guess for all five characters. The cast members, however, do as much as they can with the characterizations handed to them, all turning in solid performances.
Wilson balances the drama and shark suspense nicely with Great White, and the result is a solid thriller that makes for a fun viewing that is easy on the eyes thanks to its gorgeous natural settings, good cast, cool-looking sharks, and Tony O’Loughlan’s crisp cinematography.
Great White, from RLJE Films/Shudder, is available In theaters, On Demand and Digital from July 16, 2021.