Based on a true story, that’s what to remember when viewing The Reef. Those words have been bandied around on film so often nowadays that they have almost lost any power they once had but in the case of The Reef I must say that research has shown it to be scarily close to some real events (just check out the story of Ray Boundy and the two people with him who were “stalked” and attacked by a tiger shark) which gains it some bonus points over other films that use such real-life truths as a springboard for wherever they want to go.
Four young friends reunite for a sailing trip on the Great Barrier Reef and are enjoying the sea and sunshine until disaster strikes. The boat capsizes and it doesn’t look like anybody will be finding them anytime soon. Luke (Damien Walshe-Howling) suggests that they swim towards a reef he thinks is about 10 or so miles away and, after initial reluctance, the others agree. Everyone except Warren (Kieran Darcy-Smith) who warns them all that he knows what lives in those waters and he doesn’t want to risk it. So Luke and the three others start their long, arduous swim towards land thinking that waning strength and thirst will be their main problems. They didn’t count on the 14-foot Great White shark that takes an interest in them. It’s big, it’s mean and it’s in between the frightened swimmers and wherever they hope to get onto dry land.
Andrew Trauki (who previously “rocked the boat” with Black Water, a killer croc movie making impressive use of a very real crocodile) has moved one stage up in his efforts to both strive for realism and possibly scare people away from his home country of Australia. Yeah, this time around the director has thrown his poor cast in with the company of a real Great White shark.
Everyone does a good job here, though I’m not surprised as I think I’d give an absolutely brilliant performance showing my fear if I was in the vicinity of that big beastie as well. But that shouldn’t take anything away from the performances from Walshe-Howling, Darcy-Smith, Zoe Naylor, Adrienne Pickering and Gyton Grantley either. They all play characters who are very believable and very, very scared.
The reviews that I have seen so far have been far too quick to push the movie as a cross between Open Water and Jaws but that’s unfair. It’s a little bit better than the former film, especially in a tense sequence showing Luke getting supplies from the capsized boat before the tension starts to get properly notched up, but nowhere near as good as the latter. Forgive me Mr. Traucki, I just happen to have Jaws up there as my all-time favourite movie.
Where the movie falls down is where any film of this type will stumble. First of all, it’s hard to stop boredom setting in as the characters gradually get themselves into a dangerous situation. No movie in this vein will ever be riveting from start to finish and The Reef does make a better attempt than most to keep your attention but it’s just not enough. Secondly, the use of the shark footage means that any potential attack scenes are necessarily edited to show a lot of quick cuts and juxtaposed bodies, creating the illusion that a real shark is aiming for a real person.
I wanted to like this more than Open Water. The Reef had the added attraction of the Great White in the mix. However, at the end of the day, it didn’t quite manage to do enough to edge ahead although it did admirably place itself right beside that movie as an interesting, innovative, shark tale.
The DVD comes with a 25 minute (approximately) featurette that focuses, unsurprisingly, on the way in which a real shark was used to add realism. All of the main actors, and the director, chip in and it’s a decent enough piece but considering that the movie was innovative enough to stream footage on the internet while the film was being made I’m surprised that there’s not much more content to dive into. Not bad but the movie deserves a bit more, in my opinion.
The Reef is available on R2 DVD from 24th January 2011. Fin.
DIRECTOR: ANDREW TRAUKI
CAST: DAMIEN WALSHE-HOWLING, ZOE NAYLOR, ADRIENNE PICKERING, GYTON GRANTLEY, KIERAN DARCY-SMITH
RUNTIME 94 MINS APPROX