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Reef, The (2010)
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by Jay Seaver

"Not a bad shark movie, but not up with the great(s)."
3 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2011 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: Early on in [I]The Reef[/I], a character looking at a wall full of sharks' jaws is told not to worry, because one is far more likely to die of a bee sting than a shark attack. A part of me would like to see the movie where, in addition to everything else, these characters must deal with a time limit imposed by one being allergic to bees and needing treatment, but the film certainly doesn't suffer much for taking the more conventional route.

The woman getting that advice is Kate (Zoe Naylor); she's on vacation with her brother Matt (Gyton Grantley) and his girlfriend Suzie (Adrienne Pickering). They meet up with Matt's friend (and Kate's sort-of-ex-boyfriend) Luke (Damian Walshe-Howling), planning to spend a few days on the yacht Luke has been hired to sail to its buyer in Asia. Things are going well, generally, at least until the tide goes out and the reef rips the bottom of the boat off. With the boat turned over and taking on water, Luke feels that their best shot is to swim for a nearby island, but first mate Warren (Kieran Darcy-Smith) fishes those waters, and wants no part of the sharks.

When faced with the combination of complicated personal histories and shark-infested waters, it can sometimes be difficult for filmmakers to prioritize. Andrew Traucki, by and large, generally opts to take the path of "avoiding the nonsense". Certainly, how the characters relate to each other colors how everybody acts when the chips are down, but the audience is spared the spectacle of people self-absorbed enough to think that the middle of the ocean with a hungry shark circling is the time to air their romantic grievances. Of course, this does mean that the movie runs the risk of getting mechanical, and at times the characters do get caught in a landmark-free loop (one sees something, another scans under the surface, pep talks to stop panicking, swim a little, repeat).

That leaves the cast doing work that can be easily under-appreciated, establishing their characters early and then letting it play out over the course of the film. They're a fairly appealing bunch, and the actors do a good job of making them individual and believable without resorting to easy stereotypes. Adrienne Pickering's Suzie is clearly the least experienced at sea but doesn't become a screaming anchor, while Zoe Naylor's Kate freezes up a bit more than the audience may initially expect, but it works. She's got a nice chemistry with Damian Walshe-Howling as Luke, letting them show a somewhat confused relationship that matters to them but doesn't overpower the movie.

Of course, the movie isn't about them working on their relationships, but avoiding sharks, and that's a bit of a mixed bag. Traucki does a good job of bringing the audience up to speed on all the nautical terminology and laying the situation out clearly, and the photography is generally quite good. It can, however, sometimes seem as though he's keeping the shark too much in reserve. The movie gets some good jolts when the shark shows up, but the budget apparently didn't allow for many scenes where it and the potential victims are on-screen together, making it sometimes less of a present threat. Also, fans who like a fair amount of gore in their horror should look elsewhere; there's not even that much blood on the water.

This isn't necessarily something to complain about; Traucki and company do work a fair amount of tension from the film's good cast and lurking danger. It's a decently tense hour and a half, but likely not one that will be remembered as a classic of even the "shark movie" niche.

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originally posted: 07/18/11 00:26:15
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2011 Fantasia International Film Festival For more in the Fantasia International Film Festival 2011 series, click here.

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  N/A (R)
  DVD: 19-Jul-2011


  17-Mar-2011 (R)

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