Written by Michael Boughen and directed by Martin Wilson, Great White is a good entry in the shark horror subgenre that fits just right with Shark Week in terms of release. It’s one of the better shark films to be released in recent years with a script and direction that build tension and uses the “stuck on a raft” idea in the right direction. This is not a film about bickering (although there is some here and there) or about pouring one’s heart and dark secrets out. This is a film about 5 people wanting to survive and trying their best to make it to shore. Of course, bad things happen, the shark shows up and the tension climbs each time the fin is spotted. But this is also about interpersonal relationships without being too heavy handed about it. The film takes the setting and makes the most of it, giving breaks in the tension to better build it up, something many filmmakers do not seem to understand. The writing and directing allow this to happen, helping build the tension gradually with small bubbles of release here and there.
Leading the cast in this life or death scenario is Katrina Bowden who does quite well here, she’s likable and natural, giving a performance that is just right for the film. Her work sets the tone and anchors the other performances. Working with her is Aaron Jakubenko playing her character’s boyfriend and giving a performance that comes off a bit annoying, but that is likely the point to counterbalance Bowden. Working with them and bringing some drama and added interest in the film are Kimie Tsukakoshi and Tim Kano as a couple booking a trip for fun. Their work is support of the leads here and they do great, Tsukakoshi comes off as a potential leading lady here, giving a performance that catches the eye. Rounding up the main cast, those stranded, is Te Kohe Tuhaka who plays the helper and manages to steal a few scenes here and there with great work. This cast is strong and takes this shark film to the next level, making it a film where the characters are humans and are people that can be cared about, upping the ante for the film’s outcome.
The cinematography by Tony O’Loughlan and the editing by Lawrie Silvestrin give the film a great look. The images here are beautiful with darker scenes letting the viewer see what is going on, getting them invested by letting them join in as much as they can. The framing, use of colors, and editing allow the characters and the story to shine while also adding to the general interest here.
Great White may come off as a bit of generic shark film, but it’s more than worth giving it a chance. It’s a suspenseful take on the subgenre with strong performances and good visuals, giving itself a much stronger take on the shark film that we all know and love (or hate, or love to hate). The film has a strong leading lady, giving the story someone to lean on, and has something going for it more than just “watch out for that shark!” Of course, it doesn’t reinvent the shark film, but it’s a good entry in a genre that seems to get a new one (or five) each summer.
GREAT WHITE is available In Theaters, On Demand and Digital July 16, 2021.