Is there anything more fun and throwaway than a shark movie?
Despite the tendency to compare them all to Jaws, they rarely have much to compare them. Replace the capitalist arguments and men vs. fish philosophy a la Moby Dick with a simple story of humans vs. nature. More feminist than their masterpiece counterparts, they lean into their horror siblings, with final girls and gore aplenty.
Great White is no exception. Placing itself firmly on the same shelf as other Australian survival films such as 2007’s Black Water, we see tourists placed in situations they are ill equipped to deal with. As they go looking for freedom, adventure, and a beautiful backdrop, they find that nature has other ideas.
A rich couple in beige trousers, Michelle (Kimie Tsukakoshi) and Joji (Tim Kano) charter a flight to a remote island to spread Michelle’s Grandfathers ashes. They are joined of course by a pilot, Charlie (Aaron Jakubenko), his girlfriend Kaz (Katrina Bowden) and Benny (Te Kohe Tuhaka), who are struggling to keep their business going. When they get to the island, they find a man’s body minus its legs, and a photo leads them to try and find this mans boat and hopefully his girlfriend. Things escalate from there as you’d expect, and our crew eventually find themselves trapped in an inflatable lifeboat drifting aimlessly in a very large bit, of very bitey ocean.
We are slowly given more details about our characters, and some occasionally unnecessary conflicts arise in between the more expected obstacles, requiring or forcing characters into the water and face to face with their enemy. Other characters are given backstories, trauma and histories that are relevant and compelling in the context of the story. The limited budget is apparent in some scenes as the CGI shark is a bit of a distraction, but other scenes use stock footage and underwater photography brilliantly to more than make up for it. While the watery landscape means the cinematography at times feels a little lacking in variety, the final fight feels grounded and believable (unlike The Shallows) and we are delivered tension in buckets. While there could maybe be more shark action, the scenes in between aren’t boring, and the interplay between the characters, albeit cheesy, is entertaining.
Unfortunately, some of the performances feel a little like they belong in a soap opera (two of the five main cast members are Neighbours alumni), and as mentioned before there are conflicts between some characters that feel contrived to force someone into the water. They are not entirely believable or earned. As this conflict originates between the two men of colour, it feels a little problematic, as the white characters are verging on faultless.
While Great White may not be the best shark movie you’ve seen (talk about a high bar for that one!), it’s fun, throwaway, and does exactly what it says on the tin.
Great White is released at home and digitally on the 17th of May.