Let’s be honest here. Whenever a movie comes out and a shark is the central killer, it is always going to be compared to Jaws. It might not be completely fair, and some might say that it isn’t true but deep down, whether they admit it or not, the comparison is there in the back of their mind. With that in mind, whenever I see a movie that says something along the lines of it being, “the best such movie since Jaws“, I always take it with a grain of salt. So when I read reviews about today’s movie making similar claims, I figured I would give it a shot. I was really glad I did because I thoroughly enjoyed today’s movie, The Reef, and almost immediately bought it on DVD so I could watch it whenever I wanted.
The plot: Matt, along with his girlfriend Suzie, and his sister Kate, fly into the airport and are met by Luke, who has invited them to accompany him as he delivers a yacht to Indonesia. When they arrive at the harbor, Matt and Suzie go ahead to the boat while Luke goes to a shop to get some spark plugs and Kate joins him, as the two apparently have a history together. When Kate and Luke return to the ship, she is introduced to Warren, Luke’s friend that helps him deliver boats to people, and they start off, with Luke towing a dinghy behind them for a “surprise”. After a few hours at sea, they stop and Luke uses the dinghy to take Kate, Suzie, and Matt to a nearby island so they can snorkel. As they swim around the reef, Kate goes off on her own but is soon joined by Luke and they continue swimming around. When they get on land, Kate and Luke wander off and end up kissing for a bit but they stop as the question what happened the last time they tried something. Suddenly, Matt starts yelling for Luke and they return to the beach to discover the tide is quickly going out. The head back to the yacht but the dinghy ends up getting a leak from the coral they scrape against. Back on the yacht, the engine wont start so they are forced to use the sail to try and get clear of the reefs surrounding the island and eventually make it out. They continue sailing throughout the night and in the morning, Kate joins Luke outside and apologizes for what happened the day before. As Luke goes inside to get some coffee, the ship strikes a reef which punctures the hull and causes the ship to flip over. The group make it out to the surface and they climb up onto the overturned boat as they try to figure out what happened and what they should do. Seeing how the current is moving, Luke realizes that they are moving further out to sea and suggests they try to swim to Turtle Island, which is about 12 miles away but Warren doesn’t want to go, saying he knows what is out there in these waters. When Suzie and Matt say they won’t be able to swim that far, Luke goes back in the water and looks for some items to help keep them afloat but as he is in the boat, he hears the others pounding on it and alerting him to something in the water. Passing them what he had already found, and telling them to keep watching, he goes back in the boat for a second look, where he grabs the emergency beacon, and then heads back outside. Back on the boat, Luke, Matt, and Suzie prepare to head out, sawing a boogie board in half to use as floats, but Kate decides not to go, choosing to stay and wait on the boat with Warren but as they start to swim away, she changes her mind and joins them. As they swim off, they try to keep their spirits up but when they come across the body of a sea turtle with it’s head bitten off, Suzie gets unnerved and Luke and Matt have to force her to keep going. Back on the boat, Warren is looking out at the water when something splashes around the boat and as Warren tries to see what it is, he realizes that it is a large shark circling the boat. Meanwhile, the others are continuing to swim when Suzie says she sees something in the water. Since he is the only one with goggles, Luke ducks underwater to look around but he doesn’t see anything. When Kate says she sees something, Luke takes another look and sees a large great white shark circling them. He tries to get the others to calm down so he can keep track of the shark but every time he thinks it has swam away, it suddenly reappears. The shark finally appears to leave and Luke tries to get Suzie to calm down when the shark suddenly appears next to Kate, snatching her half of the boogie board from her. Luke tends to Kate, who is in shock from the close encounter, while Matt tries to keep Suzie calm. Seeing the boogie board pop up nearby, Matt decides to swim over and grab it but as he starts swimming back to the group, the shark appears behind him and attacks him, dragging him underwater. When Matt resurfaces, the others swim towards him but he tells him to leave him, as the shark had bitten off his leg, and he dies from the blood loss. They leave Matt’s body and as Luke looks behind them, he sees it being dragged back underwater. As they continue swimming through the night, Suzie starts yelling at Luke, blaming him for Matt’s death in her grief. The next morning, the three wake up and realize they have drifted close to an island, with some rocks sticking out close to it. The three make it onto the closest rock, where they are able to take a rest, and Luke realizes that what they see is not the island they were headed for, but they don’t care as it represents safety. Deciding to start heading for the island, They get back in the water and as they are swimming, they see a fin break the surface but are relieved when it is only a dolphin, which swims away from them. When another fin appears, Luke sees that it is the shark, just as it attacks Suzie and drags her away. When Suzie reappears, Luke swims towards her but the shark attacks her again and drags her underwater, and he quickly swims back to Kate and they get back on the rock. Kate believes it is the same shark and is scared to get back in the water but the push on and make it to the next rock. As they take another break, Kate notices that her foot is bleeding and Luke makes a makeshift bandage for it and the two admit that they love each other. They head towards the island but as they are swimming, Kate’s bandage comes off and the blood from her foot attracts the shark. Luke tells her to swim and they reach the island, where he helps push Kate up onto it. Kate reaches down to help pull Luke onto the island but before he can climb up, the shark grabs him and drags him underwater, with Kate helplessly screaming out for her loss. In a written epilogue, Kate is said to have been rescued the following day by a fisherman but despite an extensive search, no sign of Warren or the boat was ever found.
The Reef met with mostly positive reviews from the critics, holding a 79% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. While there isn’t a critical consensus on the site, many of the critics liked the pacing and consistent tone the movie used throughout the movie. The movie was based on the true story of Ray Boundy, who was the sole survivor of a similar incident in 1983. When the movie was released, the Tourism Board was worried that the advertising of it being based on a true story would hurt the tourist industry, as other films such as Open Water had done the same thing.
If you are in the mood for a thriller than this is a fantastic movie to watch. The acting was pretty good, with all of the actors doing a good job in keeping the suspense and terror alive during the entire movie after the accident occurs. The plot was pretty good, with the director doing a great job keeping the suspense going so that you almost feel the dread and worry that the characters are feeling from the moment the boat flips over. I especially liked the scene where Luke was searching the ship for items to use, and you could feel the tension as he hears the group pounding on the boat above him to warn him of danger. They did a great job in the use of the shark footage, and the scenes where Luke was looking underwater for the shark were fantastic, as you could feel the suspense as you see the shark constantly circling the group. A great shark movie and definitely ranks right up there with the all time classic Jaws.
Rating: 5 out of 5