The second film in my 2012 Shark Week marathon was The Reef, an Australian film based on “true events.” The choice for the film was a blind one, meaning that I knew nothing at all about the movie except that it was shark related and available on Netflix instant streaming. Surprisingly, the movie was better than I ever expected it to be.
The story in The Reef is somewhat similar to the 2003 film Open Water (a movie I’ll review soon enough); people are stuck in the middle of shark infested waters with nowhere to go and no one around to save them. Okay, so if this were a true-life event and I was one of those to have ended up stranded I’d have to ask some serious questions before making any rash decision. For example, are we close enough to somewhere we can swim to for safety? Are we someplace that there’s a chance we could be found? Is there anything that can be done to increase our likelihood of survival? To me, these are common sense questions that need to be answered
In The Reef, after going out on a small yacht for an excursion the boat runs aground on some coral causing it to capsize. The five passengers aboard the boat survive and are able to climb atop the capsized vessel out of the water to safety. Luke, captain of the boat and the film’s lead, makes the conscious decision that because of the current and the chance the boat is going to sink they’d be better off attempting to swim 10-12 miles in the hopes of making their way back to the island that they had just left. All but one intelligent individual who says “thanks, but no thanks” since he fishes the waters and knows what in them, decide that Luke’s right and back in the water they go for the swim. So let me get this straight, you want me to leave my safe spot out of the water, on top of the capsized boat to swim for 3+ hours in shark infested waters in the hopes of finding an island in which no one will even know we’re there because there’s a chance the boat is going to sink or that no one will find us; sounds like the right decision to me…dumb asses.
After swimming for a short period, a large-sized great white appears and, to the surprise of no one, instills great fear into the swimmers. The actors do a convincing job of expressing their terror and panic throughout their desperate attempt at finding safety. The film’s director, Andrew Traucki, does an admirable job of building up the intensity by taking advantage of most people’s biggest fear; the fear of not being in control and the fear of the unknown. As a viewer, the best thing Truacki does is to show the shark so that not all is left to our imagination. Most people like to be in control, but when you are swimming in any kind of body of water you have very little control over what’s swimming with you; you never know what’s going to rise up and nip at your toes or just plain bite you on the ass. It’s one thing to be afraid of what may be out there, but knowing something’s there and unable to do anything about it is a whole different kind of fear; no matter what you do, it’s impossible not to let fear and anticipation take over.
The Reef moves reasonably slow, which is to be expected since the majority of the film is spent watching people swim to nowhere. The biggest issue I had with the movie, aside from the poor decision-making by the characters, was that there wasn’t more than 1 shark ever seen. Australian waters are known for their shark infested waters, and it’s extremely well-known that sharks are attracted to blood in the water. You mean to tell me that only this one shark ever took notice to the four swimmers splashing and that no other sharks were drawn to the blood that was in fact in the water?
I started this review by saying that the film was better than I expected it to be, and believe it or not, it really was. The acting is better than most similar style films, the direction is actually fairly decent, and the shark footage is better than most. The pacing is lagging, but it’s not enough to cause boredom. The underwater shots are extremely effective in keeping viewers from seeing what’s coming and to build up tension. My advice should this ever happen to any of you would be to take your chances on the boat, because dehydration sounds a whole lot better than being the snack for an over-sized fish.
Age appropriate: 10+ (profanity, frightening scenes and intense situations)