Film Review – Great White (2021)

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Kaz and Charlie run a struggling seaplane service to some of the most gorgeous locations in Australia. They agree to a charter that on the surface appears to be a financial lifeline. However, it proves to be a calamitous life fuck that drags them into a harrowing battle of wits against a merciless predator.

The discovery of a horrifically mangled corpse on a remote beach is just the first link in a chain of Final Destination type events that will leave the likable pair drifting on the ocean with a resilient chef and an emotionally damaged couple.

As they formulate a survival plan it becomes clear they are being shadowed by a sneaky shark and all that separates them from its deadly jaws and rolling eyes is a thin membrane of material and their will to survive.

Martin Wilson’s debut feature is an engaging amalgam of marine melodramatics and suspensive creature peril. The soapy dialogue and shopworn plot, recycled from 2018’s Surrounded, are executed entertainingly enough within the fun framework of aquaphobic jeopardy and efficient jump scares.

Lensed with a keen eye for framing and location, Great White is visually polished and transitions elegantly between wide-angle wonderment and finite claustrophobia. Wilson is a highly accomplished commercials director and his modishness and brevity lend a touch of esthetical class to the chomping and screaming.

He understands the less is more method forged in the menacing dorsal wake of Jaws. For Spielberg, it was a necessity induced by mechanical gremlins, for Wilson it is born of budgetary overreaching and slightly ropey CGI. Utilising POV perspectives, gory aftermaths, below-the-waterline attacks, and expansive establishing shots he keeps a steady hand on the escalating danger levels.

The titular sea beast is rendered with varying success ranging from seamlessly integrated to jarringly cartoony. Although frustrating this inconsistency seldom hauls you out of the film enough to matter. That being said, it does appear to roar on a number of occasions. A bugbear of all but the most casual of shark flick enthusiasts as Carcharodon carcharias does not possess any vocal organs. In its shaky defense, sometimes during a near-surface attack, the sudden inrush of water into a shark’s gullet can produce a sound akin to a roar. But it also happens at depth here and this may be enough to fatally trigger some viewers into incredulous deal breaker mode.

As is standard procedure for pictures of this ilk the subtlety handbrake is cleaved off and thrown into the abyss during the endgame. Believability is usurped by blind luck and dumfounding bravado as prey is forced to confront the hunter. That being said, anyone signing up for an action shark thriller these days will not be expecting a plausible conclusion. On that score, Great White delivers in disbelief suspension spades.

It is a subgenre stumbling block in general that sharks are such intrinsically badass creations. It seems impossible to stage a combative confrontation within their natural habitat and remain in the realms of reality. This is not a major issue for fanciful humans versus vicious fish films like Deep Blue Sea and The Meg. However, for movies like Great White that derive their empathetic character investment from a more grounded perspective, it is.

Thematically the movie touches on some broader topics such as abusive relationships, classism, and environmental pollution. While nothing groundbreaking, they do deepen character cohesion and elevate Great White above more mindless genre fodder.

Worldwide there were just 57 unprovoked shark attacks in the whole of 2020. Despite its relative rarity mankind still fears the phenomena with disproportionate magnitude. Great White is at its most effective when it draws deeply on this paranoia and exploits the rationale behind its manifestation.

As such, Great White will provide suspense fans with a decent rush and horror hounds a solid salvo of shocks and scares.


Horror, Survival, Suspense, Thriller  | Australia, 2021 | Cert: TBC | 100 min | Altitude Film Entertainment | Dir. Martin Wilson| Cast. Katrina Bowden, Te Kohe Tuhaka, Aaron Jakubenko