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The Reef


Jeff Nelson

The Reef is worth seeing, especially for those who are interested in sharks.

The Reef
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The shark sub-genre has been around for quite some time. The greatest one to ever be made is clearly Jaws. No other film about sharks has been able to come even relatively close to surpassing it. Movies such as Deep Blue Sea and Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus gave a campy perspective on the sub-genre. Even though Open Water is more about surviving nature in the ocean and less about sharks, it has a much more serious tone than many of the other flicks in the category. Director/writer Andrew Traucki brings audiences a shark film promising tension and avoiding the tacky nature of these types of movies. Traucki's first film, Black Water, deals with a similar topic as his sophomore effort. Does The Reef keep its head above water or does it simply drown among the cheesy shark flicks?

When their yacht capsizes in the shark-infested waters of the Great Barrier Reef, five friends grow increasingly wary of the fact that their ship is sinking. Swimming to safety with a great white among them could be even more treacherous. Yes, this is another film based on a true story. I don't know very much about the real story and how accurate The Reef is to the actual events. As the film begins, most moviegoers are sure to be turned off. We are expected to get to know these five characters and gain sympathy for them. The drama occurring between two of the characters feels very hollow. There isn't a doubt that the dialogue looked awful on paper. Some of it is fine, but other lines are very poor. As the story continued, I found myself wondering when things were going to start happening. Once the characters dive into the ocean waters to begin the swim to land, the tension begins. Exhaustion kicks in several times as the great white starts to follow the group of friends. I was on the edge of my seat numerous times. Andrew Traucki creates so much suspense that you can't help but become completely immersed in the film. Audiences should be able to easily predict when each character is killed, although the tension is sure to get your heart pumping. The open ending will definitely leave some viewers upset, but it fits the flow of the movie. Even though this is definitely a flawed screenplay, the director has created a terrifying atmosphere that will keep your eyes glued to the screen until the credits roll.

The beginning of The Reef is clearly the weakest portion of the film. The acting is mediocre as the roles are being introduced. Once they're in the water in constant fear, I was surprised. The performances improved quite a bit. The actors became believable. With the great white circling them, the fear feels all too real. There are a few lines of poor dialogue that drag down the acting a bit at times. Out of this cast, the strongest performance is by Damian Walshe-Howling as Luke. His character is clearly the most level-headed out of the bunch and Howling expresses the terror well. Don't expect to be blown away.

Similar to movies such as Open Water, the film was shot on a small budget. If The Reef was remade in America, I'm sure that CGI would be primarily used for the great white. The shark is fortunately real except for the sequences where it's dragging a character away. Those expecting an absolute bloodbath will be disappointed. There's a realistic amount of bloodshed shown on screen. Instead, The Reef focuses on the tautness of the scenes. Even with the low budget, it never looks cheap or rushed. The audio is exactly what you would predict. All of the dialogue is clear in the center channel, but sound systems won't get a workout from this track. The rear channels get subtle sounds such as waves, bubbles, and other small sounds.

I was thinking that The Reef would be a cheesy guilty pleasure, but it's more than that. It's definitely no Jaws, but it sure puts many other shark flicks to shame. If you can get past the slow start, the wait is worth it. There are numerous riveting scenes that had me on the edge of my seat. I found myself stuck between giving this film a 3 out of 5 or a 3.5 out of 5, but I felt that the 3.5 was well-deserved. There aren't many movies that deliver that amount of tension. The script is problematic, but I'm glad that I gave it a shot. The Reef is worth seeing, especially for those who are interested in sharks.

My Rating = Three and One Half Stars

Next movie: Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (2011)
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