The Reef - Review
Review by Jack Foley
HAVING terrified us with his debut feature Black Water, about a trio of holidaymakers who find themselves terrorised by a crocodile, director Andrew Traucki now returns with another true-life shocker in the form of The Reef – only this time it’s a great white shark!
Curiously denied a cinema release in the UK, the film is an effectively tense thriller that is all the more notable for having been uniquely shot with 14-foot sharks. It’s thematically similar to Open Water but, for my money, perhaps a little better.
The film focuses on four old friends who decide to spend a week sailing on the Great Barrier Reef. But when the vessel capsizes, plunging its human cargo into the ocean, the group is torn between whether they should stay with the damaged boat that could sink at any moment, or take their chances and swim for the land they hope lies 10 miles away.
Seasoned fisherman Warren, fearful of what lies beneath, decides to stay with the wreck, while the others take to the open water, only to learn too late that they are being stalked by a deadly great white shark, just waiting for one member of the desperate team to fall behind.
Admittedly, Traucki’s film isn’t without flaws. The character building that exists prior to the capsizing is pretty minimal and actually quite neglectful of three of the five group members, thereby lessening the impact of their demise once it happens.
While as horrible as this sounds, there’s also no real sense of what it must actually feel like to be eaten by a shark in spite of a poster that proclaims: “Pray you drown first!”
But crucially the film does maintain a consistently high tension that’s made all the more authentic by the fact that Traucki decided to employ real sharks to gain his footage.
Hence, both the above and below water sequences are stunning, and his actors tap into the fear and despair their characters are feeling each time they either spot a fin on the horizon, or lose sight of it and wonder when it might strike.
The ‘what would you do’ nature of the dilemma is also quite intriguing, particularly early on as they debate whether to [possibly] sink or swim, while you can’t help but imagine what you might do throughout their arduous swim.
As with Open Water, the film also boasts a palpable sense of depth… meaning that it effectively fills you with the dread of not knowing what lies beneath your feet.
And performance-wise, Damian Walshe-Howling excels as the group’s leader and water expert, while Adrienne Pickering and Zoe Naylor effectively convey a sense of mounting terror and sheer fright.
As previously mentioned, I have no idea why The Reef wasn’t given a chance to shine in UK cinemas for it’s a highly effective, incredibly tense and emotionally authentic movie that is arguably the best shark movie since Jaws.
Running time: 85mins
UK DVD Release: January 24, 2011