Review: ‘Great White’ (2021)

Another year. Another Shark Week (or Month, these days). Another killer shark movie. That’s not a knock. Like many a horror fan, I’m quite fond of “when animals attack’ films and I can certainly appreciate a good man-eating shark flick.

Human-chomping shark movies were (understandably) all the rage from the late ’70s thru the early ’90s in the wake of the monster success that was Jaws. While the steady output of them has never really tapered off, they fell into a bit of a crummy sinkhole in the late ’90s through late ’00s. There were notable exceptions (i.e. Deep Blue Sea, Open Water), but on the whole, we didn’t start getting quality (or at least entertaining) killer shark movies again until the beginning of the 2010s.

Since that time, we’ve seen a wide assortment of worthwhile entries in the subgenre, from more grounded & terrifying efforts (The Reef, 47 Meters Down) to decidedly more fun & outrageous offerings (The Shallows, Bait, The Meg). Of course, there’s been a sea of Syfy-level DTV garbage as well, but the less said about those films, the better.

Where does this year’s Great White fit in? Somewhere in the middle. While it strives to initially present a grounded survival horror tale throughout, it can’t help but embellish its terrors. Fans of Jaws: The Revenge‘s roaring great white shark will get some more of the same here and the finale is very much in the vein of Jaume Collet-Serra’s excellent aforementioned opus, The Shallows. The good news is that this is better than Jaws: The Revenge. The bad news is that it’s nowhere near as good as The Shallows.

A lot of this unfortunately has to do with the writing. The basic conceit of the film is that we have our group of characters trapped miles upon miles from the Australian shoreline in an inflatable raft. In order to keep from drifting further out to sea and being lost forever, they must paddle their way back to shore and hope that the current can help them along the way. The big problem is that they are being followed by two great whites, who are undoubtedly attracted to said paddling.

This isn’t a bad framework for a killer shark flick, but the filmmakers never quite get a handle on how to make things engaging throughout. When the very trope-y characters aren’t arguing with each other like a bunch of idiots, we are frequently treated to scenes where a character either falls out of the raft or must temporarily leave it to retrieve something. Will they make it back to the raft or will they finally become a shark snack this time? It doesn’t matter, because they’re eventually going to end up in the water again in 15 minutes. Rinse and repeat. It gets repetitive real fast, even for a 91 minute movie.

Not only that, but the shark attack sequences themselves aren’t all that great either. There’s not much in the way of embarrassingly-cheap digital effects work here, but we’re also not shown much either. While that might work in a more down-to-earth movie like Open Water or The Reef, such unwillingness to show off the obvious carnage that comes from a shark attack doesn’t really fit with the overall tone of the movie and (especially) its finale.

Great White isn’t a bad movie and if you’re looking for a way to relax amidst Shark Week Month with a new man-eating shark tale, you could certainly do worse. It just doesn’t have much to add to the conversation beyond that. If you’re tired of all the others films listed above, this will sate your craving for a bit. It just won’t do as good a job of it.

Great White is an Australian survival horror fiilm. It was directed by Martin Wilson, from a screenplay by Michael Boughen. The film was produced by Pam Collis, Neal Kingston, and Michael Robertson. It stars Katrina Bowden, Aaron Jakubenko, Kimie Tsukakoshi, Tim Kano, Te Kohe Tuhaka, Tatjana Marjanovic, and Jason Wilder.

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