"Is it the worst deep sea scare fest I've ever seen?"
GREAT WHITE (2021)
Deepwater thrillers are a timeless genre, and for good reason: What could be more terrifying than the unknown horrors lurking in the depths of the ocean? From big-budget classics (Jaws) to lower-tier arthouse films (Open Water), success has certainly been had with shark attack story-telling. Unfortunately, even the most ambitious undertaking can wind up sinking under the weight of contrived dialogue and overused plot devices. All that said, I was more than willing to go into this film with an open mind.
Director Martin Wilson has a beautiful canvas to work with, and the story is set against a stunning backdrop that made me want to book a tropical vacation. Apart from that, nothing about the film really made it stand out in an already flooded subgenre of thrillers, so hopefully at some point the newbie director will get another stab at finding a story that sticks.
Five beautiful people set out on a seaplane for a day of sun and sand. What could go wrong? Fans of the genre know that whatever can go sideways, will - and that's exactly what was in store for these unsuspecting travelers. A series of unfortunate mishaps (and questionable decision-making) leaves them fighting for survival against a group of hungry sharks who are obviously out for blood.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
Who are these people? Why do I care if they survive? These are questions I was left asking as their situation grew more dire, because the script failed to entice me to any of them. The protagonists weren't especially likeable. The increasing tension between certain characters felt contrived, at times even bordering on silly. For a thriller called Great White - a great deal of the film was, well, sharkless - and void of any real tension or excitement. Katrina Bowden and Aaron Jakubenko both gave fairly solid performances, but the melodramatic narrative simply failed to hold my attention in any meaningful way.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
Visually, the film runs the gamut between breathtaking and bewildering. There are some absolutely stunning aerial shots that would be a knock-out for those watching on the big screen. Some of the underwater action sequences also held their own (think The Little Mermaid with a lot more blood). Where the visuals triumph in some aspects, there are other times when they fall just as hard. One CG shark in particular appears to be out of a '90s video game rather than a 2021 feature film, creating a cringe factor that could have been avoided.
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
True to its form, the movie balances pulsing tracks during moments of higher intensity with long stretches of silence during calmer character interactions. It's pretty run-of-the-mill stuff, with the director obviously not wanting to rock the boat in this regard.
Is it the worst deep sea scare fest I've ever seen? Certainly not - but fans of this genre looking for a sharp-toothed thrill ride may walk out of this deepwater melodrama disappointed. While the film does boast a couple of solid action sequences and some stellar aerial shots, the flimsy plot and unlikeable characters just aren't enough to keep this action film from going off the deep end.
GREAT WHITE is available In Theaters, On Demand and Digital July 16, 2021.