Mako shark movie explained: the Salem Express true story

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Mako is a 2021 movie available on Netflix, directed by the Egyptian director Mohamed Hesham El-Rashidy. The film caught decent attention on the streaming platform for two reasons: it involves the action of an aggressive shark who attacks the characters, and it revolves around the true story of the MV Salem Express, a ship that sank in the Red Sea in 1991. In this article, we will have the movie’s plot and ending explained, and we will discover the true story behind it.

You can watch the official trailer for the movie Mako here on Youtube.

Mako, the shark movie: plot and ending explained

At the beginning of Mako, we meet Rana and Sherif, a couple of important movie directors. Rana seems to receive an award for her latest documentary, and she’s thrilled to receive it, but while she is doing her speech, the presenter interrupts her, revealing a mistake: the award’s winner is actually Sherif, her husband. Disappointed, Rana starts to collect ideas for her next documentary and welcomes Gharam’s proposal: a documentary about the Salem Express that sank in 1991. Therefore, the movie Mako reveals explicitly that a true story inspires it.

The crew decides to go to Egypt and dive under the sea, looking for the sank ship. It’s a dangerous adventure: waters are icy, and the divers could face hallucinations and loss of consciousness. The crew hires a local expert for an unofficial visit to the ship. Here is where we see the shark for the first time.

As the movie explains, it’s a Mako shark, an aggressive species that can attack humans. The whole crew is attacked, and the divers try to hide inside the ship. But one after the other, they will all die for several reasons. We will see several plot twists and discover how Graham discovered the story of the Salem Express: she was on that ship years before, when she was a little girl. We see her as a child, trying to free her mother, who’s locked in their cabin because of her. She proposed this idea (making up the story about the divers who robbed the corpses and the “negative energy” around the ship) because she wanted to talk with her dead mother again after feeling guilty for all those years. The shark will kill Graham as well.

At the ending of Mako, we see Rana as the winner of this year’s award for best documentary. But this time, her speech is touching because she realized that her efforts to make a successful documentary have cost her the lives of her whole crew. The screen behind her pays tribute to her dead colleagues, while we see that Rana is missing her left arm. This is how Mako has explained its message in the ending: ambition and greed can come at a great cost.

The true story of the MV Salem Express

The MV Salem Express really existed, so it was a true story that inspired the movie Mako. It was a regular passenger ferry inaugurated in 1964. Its journey has always been the same for many years, connecting Jeddah (Saudi Arabia) to Safaga (Egypt). The ship sank on December 11, 1991, not far from its final destination, Safaga. According to the investigations, the ship departed with two days delay because of a mechanical fault, and the captain was in a rush, trying to recover the delay. According to some testimonies, the ferry drifted off course, probably in an attempt to recover from the delay, and hit a coral reef.

The ship sent an SOS message immediately, but it didn’t help: according to the survivors, it took only 11 minutes for the whole boat to sink, leaving no time for proper rescues. About 480 passengers died in the disaster, including the captain, and only 180 survived.

The ship is currently about 30 km off Port Safaga, at a 30 meters depth.

Can you dive around the MV Salem Express? And are there sharks?

As this article on Teller Report explains, the Salem Express has become a tourist attraction in recent years. Every year many divers take the opportunity of an adventurous dive close to the sank ship. They are not allowed to enter the body of the ferry, but they can get close to it. A professional coach typically accompanies them, and they need an “adventurous diver” license to go.

The aspect of the Salem Express is similar to what we see in the movie Mako: the cabins are still there, and in many of them, there are still the passengers’ belongings, including cars. For the record, not all the bodies have been recovered after the tragedy.

And yes, there are many sharks in the Red Sea and the area around the Salem Express, so the chances of a shark attack are not remote. There have been some fatalities over the last years because of shark attacks in the Red Sea: one of the most famous is the attack on tourists in Sharm El Sheik in 2010, and in that case, a Mako shark was precisely one of the protagonists. Sharm El Sheik is about 100km from Port Safaga, where the Salem Express lies.

Divers are aware of all these risks, but not they have one more reason to visit the ship: get in contact with the true story behind the Netflix movie Mako.

Read other true stories behind movies and TV series on Auralcrave