The Great White starts with blood in the water.
That scene, so familiar in films about shark attacks – purple mingled with waves wearing white hats while other hapless swimmers eat lunch for the ocean’s most prominent predator – comes here as an introduction to the perils of peeing bay reefs.
Great White introduces seaplane pilot Charlie (Aaron Yakubenko) and his business and life partner Kaz (Katrina Bowden from 30 Rock) to keep the sharks lurking there. Kaz and Charlie fell in love, but Avgas was fruitless, and their Cessna Pearl Air charter service barely flew.
Joji (Tim Kano) and his wife Michelle (Kimi Tsukakoshi) enter wealthy clients, ordering a last-minute charter to Hell’s Reef. And with cook/assistant Pearl Benny (Te Kohe Tuhaka) on the tie, the band sets off for destiny.
Hell’s reefs are beautiful, delicate, but the peace is disturbed when a body is found on the beach, the remains of that delivery swimmer. They paddled ashore, and the sharks were still circling.
The seaplane landed, and a shark immediately bit the swimmer. Georgie and Charlie clashed for survivors of the attack, but their aerial view showed the boat capsized. Their Cessna sinks quickly, the group board a life raft with scarce supplies and little hope of rescue.
Tension builds inside the raft, and soon the sharks are devouring their first prey. Charlie, a retired marine biologist, seems convinced that if he gets “close enough”, he can kill his opponent with a small knife to survive. (Making sensible decisions isn’t Charlie’s forte.)
Everyone on the raft is happy, rowing like hell and hoping for solid ground. But another is thrown overboard, there’s another purple wave, and soon all that’s left is a desperate escape in a drenched raft to the other shore, led by hungry sharks hunting their prey in swarms.
Te Kohe Tuhaka plays Benny, Pearl Charters chef and general assistant.
And while Great White leaves Benny’s origins largely undeveloped. He’s perhaps the most interesting character in the film, as there are only hints of threat, skill. And lore from the locals in every line he delivers.
Tuhaka is a New Zealander who is perhaps best known for his work on the 35mm version of The Dead Lands. Which appears on the AMC Shudder streaming channel. Perhaps it was no coincidence that Great White had also appeared under the Shudder banner.
It looks like a great white shark can easily traverse the plastic floors. And raft spaces of your typical flight life like a dog sipping on a dipstick. But instead, hunting sharks waited on the Great White.
By offering their menacing silhouettes to the corners of the underwater space. Also outlining the fragile rafts that floated on the surface. These sharks are also professional enough to wait their turn. They wait until the third act of the film to make a direct attack on the raft.
But by then, the Great White has become an easy exercise to bet on who will do it. The rant between charter guests and charter crew is never too much. The chemistry between Katrina Bowden and Aaron Yakubenko as Kaz and Charlie is smoky from the start.
The three or four background lines Michelle provides only serve to serve her place to telegraph in the final survival rate. White people have predatory sharks and desperate humans. But it has very little in the middle to provide connectivity. So only the order of shark consumption needs to be considered.
And what is a shark attack movie without some horror moments?
There are brief moments. The characters inherently fall into the possession of the shark. But instead, we can look forward to the victory of humans over sharks. When a drowning Kaz and Charlie take advantage of an attacking shark with nothing but a knife, flare gun, and ingenuity.
It’s a triumph of CG, underwater cameras and rally behind a hero. However, that time was primarily alone. Which left most white people waiting for the game to see who got off the raft and went ashore alive.
The Great White helped ensure that nothing significant was lost and transferred most of his fatal blows to the realm of oily suggestion, the purple puddle above.
Great White doesn’t convey the character, excitement. Or even the thrill of a shark devouring the person supposed to feed a film like this.