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Since Steven Spielberg formed the summer blockbuster and scared the bejesus out of crowds with Jaws back in 1975, it is fair to say that shark cinema has exponentially grown in number. Some offerings sinking into the murky depths of ineptitude (Shark Night 3D, Jaws: The Revenge, DarkTide) but others have struck with such razor-toothed ferocity that they have found themselves ranked highly in this crowded finned sub-genre of nature attacks filmmaking. In fact, of late, there have been some very impressive offerings like Jaume Collet-Serra’s The Shallows, Johannes Roberts’ 47 Meters Down, and the underrated Deep Blue Sea 3 and found footage spin Cage Dive. Sadly Martin Wilson’s Great White does not quite raise to those higher tides but still has some thrashing thrills on offer.
The story sees struggling sea plane guides Kaz (Katrina Bowden) and Charlie (Aaron Jakubenko) and their friend Benny (Te Kohe Tuhaka) get a much needed job taking two clients on a tour of the picturesque Hell’s Reef (that doesn’t sound at all foreboding) but chaos strikes when they investigate a potential shark attack death and find themselves stranded and hunted by the predator beneath the waves.
Great White does become a tad predictable as it goes on, despite tense moments of bite here and there that – while not distinguishing it as strongly as other better shark attack horrors – bring some popcorn thrills. As this small crew face the wrath of the seas and its greatest predator, I admittedly found myself rooting the shark on during a number of scenes, as certain characters do struggle to attain your sympathies. Then again some of that is intentional and I’m perhaps a touch biased as I am usually on nature’s side in these films. To that point there are some admirable attempts by the story to highlight the environmental issues the natural world currently faces and how it affects sharks in particular, even if films like The Meg and Deep Blue Sea 2 and 3 handled those themes far better.
Like some of its brethren, the finale goes quite over the top (see 47 Meters Down: Uncaged) but does at least deliver on the poster’s flamboyant action promise. Wilson orchestrates some suspense from Tony O’Loughlan’s striking cinematography, the stranded settings and anxieties of his characters. It also helps that he opts to keep the sharks a bit more submerged or distant for some of the duration, as there is no doubt that the film loses its groove when they are increasingly more exposed (as do some of the effects) in the climatic leg of the movie.
From Tim Count’s score to the performances, Great White is a solid and well made shark stalker horror/thriller but you do feel as though there are other alphas in this sub-genre which sunk their teeth a little deeper and stood out a lot more. That said, shark film fans will find much here to enjoy.
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