Requin is a word describing tropical sea sharks who are “characterized by a nictitating membrane and a heterocercal tail.” The Requin is Le-Van Kiet’s entry into the beloved genre of shark attack films. The writer-director sets the action in his homeland of Vietnam, and director of photography Matt S. Bell lovingly shoots every nook and cranny of the country. But, are the narrative and characterizations able to back up the beautiful look of the movie?
Jaelyn (Alicia Silverstone) and Kyle (James Tupper) are on a much-needed getaway to Vietnam. The trip is an attempt to put a recent tragedy behind them and rebuild their relationship. Said tragedy has left Jaelyn anxious about any decision she has to make, while Kyle seems to be no longer able to communicate with her genuinely. Things come to a head during a severe tropical storm that breaks their waterfront room off from the rest of the resort property.
Now adrift at sea, injured and scared, the husband and wife duo must do what they can to survive. Unfortunately, a dire situation worsens after Kyle’s leg becomes grievously wounded. As if that weren’t bleak enough, ravenous sharks begin circling the two, hoping for a meal.
The Requin, as stated, is stunning to look at. The cinematography and amazing Vietnamese vistas add so much production value, the film appears much more expensive than it was. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the rubbery, poorly integrated CGI. The sharks, especially in close-up at the end, look awful. Yes, this was not some big-budgeted, $100 million Hollywood picture, but even considering that the CG is not good. Compare this shark’s shabby, somewhat distorted visage to the likes of Great White or Planet Of The Sharks, and even still, this is found wanting.
“…a severe tropical storm…breaks their waterfront room off from the rest of the resort property.”
With that being said, this survival thriller still works overall. Partially, that is because Kiet ably wrings suspense from the situation. By not piling on exposition at the forefront, the mini-mystery of what sadness has befallen Jaelyn and Kyle proves an excellent throughline for audiences to latch onto. It also helps that the action beats are well-edited and are constantly exciting and tension-filled.
Furthering the success of The Requin are Silverstone and Tupper. Their chemistry is only okay, but that is part of the point. These two feel estranged from each other, and part of their arc is reconnecting, so that slightly rough sense between the two helps further that point. Tupper is goofy and fun while still delivering the drama when needed to.
But really, this is Silverstone’s show, and she delivers in a big way. She careens from excited to anxious to frustrated to scared to determined with ease. Jaelyn’s emotional state is fragile, yet she never plays it like a cartoon. The actor sells the guilt that wracks her character, keeping the proceedings grounded. Her unwillingness to just give up in the face of even more adversity is believable thanks to the writing and Silverstone’s acting.
Kiet hits similar themes to Gravity, focusing on a woman who has no reason left to live and then finds it. In both cases, real humanity and emotional honesty are effectively mined, even if the situations the characters find themselves in are a bit over-the-top in some ways. Such a tactic allows audiences to have fun and deal with weighty, intense moments without feeling overburdened.
While plagued with bad CGI that takes one out of the viewing experience, The Requin works overall. The direction keeps things moving along nicely, while the cinematography makes the whole production look bigger and slicker than it would come across otherwise. Couple that with a decent script and two strong lead performances, and one gets a fine entry into the survival-thriller genre.
"…two strong lead performances..."