Not so great white

Great White

2021 | 91 min

Dir. Martin Wilson

A struggling Australian tour company gets a call to take a couple out to a beautiful remote atoll to spread the ashes of an ancestor. There are five people: two couples, both of whom have relationship tensions and a super hot fifth wheel. This sounds like a set-up for a relationship drama, perhaps something about connecting with nature and ancestors, perhaps a violent jealously narrative, or something else. The options for a compelling story are endless. Instead…a shark takes down a plane.

Charlie (Aaron Jaubenko) and Jaz (Katrina Bowden) operate a tour business at a crossroads, just as their relationship is. They get a timely call from Michelle (Kimie Tsukakoshi) and Joji (Tim Kano) ordering their deluxe tour package. When they get off the seaplane at their destination they find the remains of two people who were killed by a great white shark. They get back in their plane but the shark attacks it and it doesn’t get less ridiculous from there.

I’ve written before that nearly all shark attack movies are both silly and impossible. They’re impossible because those few sharks that do on rare occasions bite people are incapable of eating a whole adult person and even the largest would struggle with a child older than around seven or eight. They just can’t eat enough to keep a conflict going. They’d be full before the first film’s act ends. And they’re silly because, to repeat myself, people go fishing, fish don’t go peopling. As in, you have to keep finding ways to put people in the shark’s way even though people don’t live in the water and sharks do not live on land. Even compelling shark attack movies like Jaws come up with pretty bizarre circumstances to get people into the water like a shark sinking a large fishing trawler. So sharks need bottomless stomachs, need to be able to capsize boats and sink planes and people need to just fall into the water at every chance in order to maintain the drama.

The maneuvering in Great White to keep people in the water is as follows: boom knocks woman into water, shark sinks plane, person drops paddle and has to go get it, jealous man pushes hot fifth wheel out of the boat, shark capsizes boat, person falls out of boat, another person falls out of boat, another person falls out of boat, boat sinks, person falls off little island, person falls off little island. Perhaps one of them is believable.

Katrina Bowden was already in a film that pointed out how nonsensical most of the events and decision making in horror films are. In the very fun Tucker and Dale vs. Evil, they take a series of preposterous coincidences and create a horror film out of the nonsense by playing to the comedy inherent in that nonsense. Shark attack movies almost never do this. They take the utterly bizarre turns necessary to keep people in the path of a shark with a bottomless stomach and pretend that they’re plausible. Which is why so much of shark attack cinema sucks. Adhering to a formula is going to fail when the formula itself is bad. Great White is also bad for other reasons like mediocre CGI and a bad script. But given its premise, it could have only been mildly good if everything else went perfectly.