A group of friends take a sailboat for a relaxing trip around Australia's Great Barrier Reef, but when the boat overturns after its keel is torn off, they are stranded with two choices: stay and risk the boat sinking or try to swim to an island 12 kms away and risk being attacked by sharks. They don't all make the same decision. They don't all survive.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Marketing materials for The Reef make it perfectly clear that this is not a nature doco about pretty fish in peaceful waters around the reef. It's a thriller, a genre which Australians should make more often, given the plentiful natural threats in the Australian land and seascape. Andrew Traucki has already tackled the crocodile thriller with his 2007 film, Black Water, and pretty good it is too. Now it's time for his shark thriller, and he has taken a true story as the starting point.
The intention of a shark thriller is to keep the audience in suspense as long as possible and scare them sharkless when those ominous fins circle our characters. The characters should be an assortment, and a bit of relationship tension can add to the spice of the film. All this has been effectively done.
Traucki's cast excel at various aspects of fear, and the editing - which is essential to bring the sharks into the frame with the actors so they don't have to be constantly replaced with every take or two - is seamlessly done. Needless to say when panic sets in, those in the ocean thrash about and it's no use yelling at the screen telling them to stay still ... but you might be tempted.
Rafael May, who made the soundtrack/score of Road Train a full blown character, tackles the genre with enough restraint to be classy but not so much as we nod off. The score and the editing are especially important here, but the screenplay is still the key. Traucki has kept it simple; the set up gets us into the mood of the small group of friends with some really fine performances, and when the inevitable begins to unfold, we have something invested in the group's safety.
It's short, sharp and to the point, and the careful, measured use of shark footage is exemplary.
Published first in the Sun-Herald
Review by Louise Keller:
Here's a terrific genre movie splashed liberally with tension, scares and just enough humour to put us in the right frame of mind. Director Andrew Traucki throws us the bait - and we bite. We know exactly what we are in for - and we are not disappointed. A sailing and snorkelling adventure around the Barrier Reef is perfect - until the boat capsizes and that darned shark with the big teeth starts circling around. Based on true events, Traucki sticks to the formula and establishes his characters, the setting, a touch of romance, a suggestion of mystery and then....
Although we are told there is more chance of dying of a bee sting than being eaten by a shark, if you happen to be stranded in the middle of the ocean, the likelihood of running into a swam of bees is academic. The power of suggestion is superbly used from the outset and it is simply a matter of 'when' and 'how', rather than 'if'. The film begins on dry land, when Luke (Damian Walshe-Howling) meets the plane that carries three of his crew of four with whom he is about to have a pleasure jaunt around the Reef.
It's clear that he and Kate (Zoe Naylor) have unfinished romantic business. Quickly, we get a sense of the ocean at its most beautiful, as bikini-clad girls and the guys snorkel underwater on the reef past a giant turtle and near shoals of exquisite, luminous blue fish. We don't have long to wait - things move quickly as the tide drops, the boat capsizes and horror of horrors, there are only two choices. To stay put on the upturned boat or to swim for an island somewhere beyond the horizon.
The cast (who spend pretty much all of the film immersed in water) does an excellent job with both Walshe-Howling and Naylor especially good. Rafael May's music and soundscape is fairly subtle (for the genre) adding greatly to the tension that Traucki ably generates.
Much of tension comes from what we don't see, as our imagination starts working. We feel the claustrophobia as Luke dives under the boat and there are noises. The sea that seemed so welcoming is now ominous and filled with shadows. Daniel Ardilley's camerawork becomes frenetic as the nightmare becomes real and soon it's time for the first casualty. Then it's time to start swimming - even if there is a great white shark circling nearby. Naysayer Warren (Kieran Darcy-Smith) has the best line involving wetsuits and baby seals. You'll know it when you hear it. By this time, laughter comes as a great relief. Traucki keeps the tension going beautifully, occasionally lulling us into a sense of security - until our hearts start pounding again. It's a little ripper.
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ANDREW TRAUCKI INTERVIEW
REEF, THE (M)
CAST: Damian Walshe-Howling, Gyton Grantley, Adrienne Pickering, Zoe Naylor, Kieran Darcy-Smith, Mark Simpson
PRODUCER: Andrew Traucki, Michael Robertson
DIRECTOR: Andrew Traucki
SCRIPT: Andrew Traucki
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Daniel Ardilley
EDITOR: Peter Crombie
MUSIC: Rafael May
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Adam Head
RUNNING TIME: 88 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Pinnacle Films
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: March 17, 2011