Reef, The (2010)

The Reef (2010)

Pray that you drown first

Four friends set out on a yacht for a week of cruising around the Great Barrier Reef. However it capsizes and they are stranded on the overturned hull. Realising that they have little hope of being rescued, the group has a stark choice: either sit tight on the hull which is drifting further out to sea and in danger of sinking or swim to the nearest land which is twelve miles away. Taking the second option, the group begin to swim for it but they soon come to the realisation that they are being stalked and hunted by a huge 14ft white pointer shark.


It’s virtually impossible to do a review for The Reef without at least mentioning Open Water as they’re almost identical films featuring a few unlucky people stranded in the middle of the ocean with more on their minds than worrying about whether they left the front door unlocked before they set out. Open Water was all about the characters and getting to sympathise with their predicament with less focus on the actual sharks. The Reef does a bit of a flip around, focusing more on the shark itself and creating a lot more tension and decent scares in the process. It’s for this reason that it’s way better than Open Water. And that’s the end of the comparison because once the characters get into the water, there’s a lot more going on here.

Director Andrew Traucki made the competent Black Water, a decent timewaster which stretched out a simple idea a bit too long for its own good. He’s back with a similar film, only replacing the crocodile with a killer shark and throwing his characters out into the middle of the Great Barrier Reef instead of the mangroves. The impressive cinematography of Daniel Ardilley is the key to success here, conveying a real sense of isolation and desperation as there’s nothing for miles and miles but water….and the odd shark fin. The shark scenes are highly effective for their use of real-life shark footage which was filmed especially for The Reef. The camera doesn’t linger on the shark but you know it’s there, circling around the group or swimming underneath, waiting for the opportunity to strike. It’s this constant uneasy presence that gives rise to a lot of dramatic tension. The shark can literally strike at any time as there’s no protection from it in the middle of the ocean and you can feel the characters’ dread that any of them could be killed at any moment. Even when one of the characters keeps looking underwater with his goggles to track the shark, it’s pointless as the waters beneath the surface are gloomy and only serve to add to the tension as the shark disappears into the abyss. When the attacks do come, they’re well-executed, leaving most of the gory details off-camera to leave to our imaginations. Though it doesn’t really need much imagination to feel every bite, chew and drag of the shark.

The cast of unknowns do a decent job here although the characters are hardly given much depth apart from their names and the revelation of some brief history between two of them. Let’s face it, as soon as they get into the water we don’t care who they are, what they do, where they come from or how they got there, we just want to see how they’re going to try and get out of the situation they’re in. Still it’s fairly easy to spot which character is going to get eaten and in which order it will happen. It’s this unfortunate predictability which hampers the film in its final third as no matter how much the tension is racked up, we know who is going to die next. Having said that, the constant presence of the shark is enough to put the chills up anyone and adds a shred of unpredictability: you’ll work out who will die next but you won’t know when.



The Reef is basically Open Water with a lot more shark action. It’s highly effective, gripping in places and does a better job at cranking up tension and drama than 90% of big budget Hollywood films. You will feel just as isolated, helpless and waiting to die as the characters. Just don’t expect to see something you haven’t seen before.





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