Great White

A couple running a seaplane tour company take their cook and a wealthy couple to tour a remote atoll. After their seaplane is destroyed, they must survive the elements, each other, and a hungry great white lurking just beneath the surface.

Great White is the sophomore feature-film both for writer Michael Boughen (Dying Breed) and director Martin Wilson (Roll). The film is formatted a bit like a slasher. There is a cold opening, establishing the dangers that lie ahead, then the film introduces the audience to its characters. Great White focuses on a couple who runs seaplane tours, although one of them used to be a marine biologist until an unfortunate encounter with a shark. They are hired to take a wealthy couple on a tour of a beautiful atoll. Their beautiful excursion is interrupted by a shocking discovery and subsequent incident that leaves them afloat in the ocean without a plane or means of letting anyone know where they are. The worst part, they are being stalked by a great white shark. One by one, the shark picks off the survivors leading to a desperate fight for survival.

This shark flick isn’t necessarily bad, but it doesn’t do a lot to stand out either. There are many killer shark films out there, and the marketing even points out that Great White is from the people who brought us 47 Meters Down. Yet this film doesn’t have the suspense and thrills to be on par with 47 Meters Down, and it also doesn’t have the camp and humor of other popular shark films such as Deep Blue Sea. With so many different shark films out there for viewers to consume, it’s important to find a way to stand out, but unfortunately Great White rehashes plot points we have seen before without delivering anything exciting and new. It also falls into old horror tropes, especially when it comes to the first person in the core character group to be killed off (I won’t say who to avoid spoilers, but you’ll get what I’m saying once you see the film). The resulting film is entertaining enough, but it will likely be quickly forgotten by audiences in favor of other shark films.

One of the better aspects of Great White is the performances. Katrina Bowden (Tucker and Dale vs Evil, Piranha 3DD) stars as Kaz, one of the owners of the tour company. Bowden always does a wonderful job of bringing heart into even the cheesiest of horror films, and her performance as Kaz is no different. She is excellent at making the audience care about her character, and she makes the film worth watching. Kimie Tsukakoshi (Rip Tide, The Family Law) plays Michelle, one half of the wealthy couple. Her performance is quite nuanced, especially when you notice the difference between how Michelle acts around her husband compared to when she lets her guard down. Then we have Te Kohe Tuhaka (The Dead Lands, Love and Monsters) as Benny, the cook for the tour company. Tuhaka quickly makes Benny one of the most lovable characters. My only complaint is that he deserved far more screen time.

It would be impossible to critique a shark film without discussing the sharks themselves. The first time the shark is fully visible on screen in Great White, is it unfortunately a bit of a letdown. The shark is created with the level of CGI one might expect from a film like Sharknado. Luckily, things only get better from there. The shark is mostly shown underwater or in darkness in quick glimpses, so the filmmakers use a combination of real shark footage and better looking CGI. There are also a couple instances of gore that utilize practical effects to create disturbing and memorable imagery.

Great White is a film with a few heartfelt moments, but it ultimately doesn’t do enough to stand out in a sea of shark flicks. As a sophomore feature-film for both Boughen and Wilson, this is still a compelling entry to their filmographies. Yet the plot rehashes things we have seen in previous shark films and it doesn’t do enough to set itself apart from the herd. The shark action might not be all that thrilling, but there are some strong performances from the main cast of characters that give the film heart. In the end, Great White is the kind of film that doesn’t do enough to stand out for fans of killer shark movies.


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