This 2010 Aussie shark film should be fairly simple to review, as nothing much happened besides a lot of open ocean swimming. If you’re frightened easily and don’t like horror, don’t worry: you won’t have much trouble watching The Reef. It’s not that kind of movie. I’m not entirely clear what kind of movie this is, actually. A low-budget survival tale with mostly dimwitted people?
There are five folks trapped on top of an upturned ship who have to swim 12 miles in the tropics to reach an unseen island and possible safety. Will they reach it? Does it matter? It’s one of those attrition flicks where you have to guess who’s the last man standing — or swimming, as the case may be. It’s all very predictable, but surprisingly, not scary.
I liked the beginning. It started slow and built up the characters pretty well. It was well-told and well-acted at that point, and the scenery couldn’t be beat.
Nitpicking where I shouldn’t
Unfortunately, once the swimmers hit the water, they devolved into screechy fish bait. That’s not how you cross an ocean safely. I could nitpick the heck out of this. Hanging around the bloody dead people too long isn’t wise (that’s what chum is). Don’t kick up a storm like prey animals either. They also stopped a lot. I kept shouting ,”Keep swimming! But gently! Keep going with less splashing!”
I used to teach wilderness survival and know something about it, so I’m being harsher on The Reef than most would be. It’s like trying to watch a film like Backdraft with a firefighter. When the one guy who knew something about sailing dove under the ship to retrieve items, I saw a TON of things the survivors could have used that he just ignored. It was a whole sailing ship loaded with DAYS of useful supplies. Arg. Make me stop whining.
What I liked
The plot was lean and easy to follow, and the shark wasn’t absurd — he actually seemed like a real animal instead of an insane monster. And The Reef wasn’t campy or gory. The ‘captain’ character was the guy who kept his head and was worth watching.
But the ending was…sudden? Underwhelming? Perhaps the real beauty of The Reef is that it’s based on a true story and the producers didn’t feel a need to over-dramatize anything. These things happen. It’s tragic (mostly), and you’d never want to live though this. But movie-wise, it’s just on the high end of average. This isn’t like Jaws (an A+ film indeed). Or even The Meg. (We gave that a B-). I still have to see 47 Meters Down (I know, I know, the sequel’s coming). Come to think of it, I want to watch The Shallows and Deep Blue Sea too. I have a lot of catching up to do.
Overall: if you want a high-octane gruesome shark tale, keep looking. There’s plenty of them out there. I actually liked The Reef for its mild plotting…I just didn’t love it.
Movie Grade: C+
Here’s the trailer for 47 Meters Down 2, set to arrive in 2019:
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