Director: Martin Wilson
Cast: Katrina Bowden, Aaron Jakubenko, Kimie Tsukakoshi, Tim Kano, Te Kohe Tuhaka
Runtime: 1 hr 31 mins
Released By: Golden Village Pictures
Opening Day: 13 May 2021
Synopsis: A blissful tourist trip quickly turns into a nightmare when five passengers on a seaplane become stranded miles from shore. In a desperate bid for survival the group try to make it to land before they either run out of supplies or are taken by a menacing terror lurking just beneath the surface.
Unfortunately for ‘Great White’, it is not enough to be a mediocre shark thriller; being so is equivalent to being dull and uninteresting. That is inevitably a consequence of just how many shark movies there have been since Steven Spielberg’s iconic ‘Jaws’, such that those who have managed to differentiate themselves from the pack (pun intended) have either been eerily realistic or just plain outrageous.
It is obvious that ‘Great White’ aims to be the former, pitting a group of five whose seaplane has been attacked by the titular shark against its sheer predatory instinct. Yet director Martin Wilson seems at a loss to turn the premise into anything compelling, so much so that the second act goes by like an utter slog as the quintet drift about in the open sea aimlessly and engage in meaningless quarrels with one another.
That blame of course falls on writer Michael Boughen, whose idea of dramatic tension is to have the trip’s chef Benny (Te Kohe Tuhaka) leer at one of the females on the trip, whose husband also happens to be on the same trip. Right up till Benny’s predictable demise, it is never clear just why he is so interested in Michelle (Kimie Tsukakoshi), one half of a high-powered couple who had chartered the seaplane to bring them to a remote Australian island to scatter her grandfather’s ashes.
Piloting the seaplane is retired marine biologist Charlie (Aaron Jakubenko), who works with his girlfriend Kat (Katrina Bowden) to bring holidaymakers to beauty spots in the middle of the ocean. No matter the contrivance, the writing sets it up such that Charlie has just found out from Kat that she is pregnant with their child, and though initially hesitant how to react, will over the course of their ordeal come to treasure and embrace the gift of new life within Kat.
What about the shark you ask? Well, the beast is frankly rather nondescript if you ask us. Not only does it spend most of the time simply lurking beneath the surface of the ocean, it also keeps itself substantially hidden even when it does finally come up to attack, except at the end when Kat and it are engaged in a one-on-one around a shipwreck at the bottom of the sea. It is laughable that a movie that has named itself after the shark it portrays does not make the creature front and centre throughout the film, so much so that we keep wondering when it will finally decide to show up.
There is little payoff at the end too, as Wilson falls back on familiar tropes – the sight of a pointed fin; a sudden chomp; the sea turning red; and ultimately a lethal stab between the eyes – when the confrontation between man and shark unfolds properly. It isn’t anything you haven’t seen before, and to have to sit through an hour of tedium just to get to familiar territory is little comfort or joy even for those who have the patience to do so.
Thus, like we said, ‘Great White’ fails by being absolutely ordinary. It isn’t bad per se, but by biding its time with thin character work right up till the finale, it unavoidably leaves its audience who would likely have seen more than their fair share of shark thrillers wanting much, much more. So unless you really need a shark fix, or if by some miracle you haven’t yet seen any man-versus-shark movie before this, you’ll find ‘Great White’ a great bore.
(As far as shark thrillers go, this 'Great White' is a great bore)
Review by Gabriel Chong