GREAT WHITE movie poster | ©2021 RLJE Films

GREAT WHITE movie poster | ©2021 RLJE Films

Rating: Not Rated
Stars: Katrina Bowden, Aaron Jakubenko, Kimie Tsukakoshi, Tim Kano, Te Kohe Tuhaka
Writer: Michael Boughen
Director: Martin Wilson
Distributor: RLJE Films
Release Date: July 16, 2021

GREAT WHITE is set off the coast of Australia, which is known to be a gathering spot for the titular sharks. It’s certainly a place with lovely forests and beaches, as well as gorgeous seascapes.

At the start, we see a small boat moored within swimming distance of the shore. Gentle reggae music is playing. The deck has bathing suits drying on the clothesline, empty bottles and, uh-oh, a fraying rope.

What happens with the rope is promisingly unexpected (it leads to catastrophe, but not the one we might imagine). There’s also, as anticipated, a Great White shark.

Then we meet our main characters. Kaz (Katrina Bowden) and Charlie (Aaron Jakubenko) are a couple operating a small charter flight business on a scenic island. Kaz is a former triage nurse and the company bookkeeper; Charlie is the pilot and a former marine biologist. Charlie would like to marry Kaz, but they’re having money problems.

A tourist couple, Michelle (Kimie Tsukakoshi) and Koji (Tim Kano), book a flight to the nearby reef, site of a post-WWII shipwreck. Michelle, an avid diver, wants to scatter her grandfather’s ashes in the waters by the wreck. Koji hates the ocean, but supports his wife’s wishes. Then a horrible discovery is made, and Charlie acts responsibly.

We’re now half an hour into GREAT WHITE. With the exception of Koji’s inexplicable jealousy of Kaz and Charlie’s capable associate Benny (Te Kohe Tuhaka), everyone behaves so reasonably that you wonder how they’re going to get themselves into trouble.

This is answered promptly by the plot. The rest of GREAT WHITE involves the five characters in a life raft, with sharks in pursuit.

Writer Michael Boughen and director Martin Wilson have set themselves a difficult task by committing to roughly an hour of action in one small location. Things have to happen to maintain tension. On the other hand, the peril can’t be so constant that all plausibility is destroyed.

Bearing in mind and setting aside the fact that Great Whites don’t actually eat this much (a shark, if it did eat half a person, would wait days before going after other prey), the filmmakers do a decent job. They’ve got a good, charismatic cast, and the dialogue never flips into silliness.

Another benefit is that, except when the humans are interacting directly with sharks, there’s actual good wildlife photography here that shows regular marine life. We see actual Great Whites swimming among smaller fish, rather than CGI shots where the filmmakers can’t afford to add any elements to the sharks.

On the other side of this is that there’s only so much that can occur. We like the people, but they aren’t intrinsically fascinating from the get-go, and we don’t feel like we get to know them much better in these extreme circumstances.

Wilson stages a couple of good jump scares, but for the most part, GREAT WHITE is decent without being especially gripping.

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