The Reef (2010) is our final film dedicated to our shark month of July. The Australian Film, based on the true story of Ray Boundy, hits a lot of terrifying moments but left us feeling indifferent.
Please be aware, there is a slight spoiler for a specific scene in this review.
The film’s tagline “Pray that you drown first” is spot on. Five individuals head out on a boat trip along the Great Barrier Reef. Without spoiling too much, the boat capsizes and leaves the five passengers to figure out a way back to a small island. Four go in the water and one remains behind, terrified of what is underneath the surface. Along the way to the island, they realize a Great White is following them.
Will they make it to shore? You’ll have to watch the film to find out. Suffice it to say that, the film does a good job with character development so we feel an emotional connection to each one. Be aware, they don’t hit the water until about 30 minutes into the film. They really do set things up. This might be a turnoff for those looking for a quick action shark thriller.
The editing uses real life shark footage that adds to the film’s tension. That being said, there is one instance of a CGI shark that is so fake it made us laugh. Specifically, a Great White shark jumps over the shoulder of a female character. The character wasn’t harmed at all. Her body barely moved or registered the closeness. The way the shark jumps her (not jump the shark LOL) the power should have forced her under, forward…. something. Additionally, wouldn’t the pectorals have hit the back of her head? Maybe it would have knocked them unconscious? Literally, she was just terrified. It felt like a cheap jump scare that was unnecessary.
Overall, The Reef is a film that makes you keenly aware of the ocean’s top predator. It is a reminder that while we enjoy playing within those waters, deadly creatures do inhabit them. It uses our fear of the unknown and potentially becoming prey to its advantage.
Several reviews have compared this film to Open Water (2003), a film done with no budget and the actors surrounded by real sharks. In fact, looking at the trivia on the IMDB page, the actors wore chain mail under their wetsuits in case the Caribbean Reef Sharks bit them. Thankfully, no one had a negative encounter. The film, also based on a true story, came out years before The Reef. Yet, their movie posters look eerily similar. Click on their links to see for yourself.
While we can see some comparisons between the two, each is unique in the emotional context. Open Water is a slow descent into the acceptance of death. There is no hope. There is no way out. There are only the sharks, the vast ocean and you. That in and of itself is more terrifying than anything else. The Reef, while scary in its own right, has hope. There is land. They can get there. You hold on to that glimmer as they swim, because you saw the reef earlier in the film. To compare the two seems an injustice to both.
NOTE: We truly believe sharks are not the man-eating monsters movies portray them to be. Remember, we kill more of them daily than they do us. The Inertia reports that humans kill closer to 100,000,000 sharks per an average 10 shark attack fatalities annually. Padi even lists 18 things more dangerous than sharks. While these films might be fun, they are also dangerous to the perception of shark encounters. No one wants to have one, but we have to understand and respect that when we enter the oceans, we are entering their domain.