Adrift: Damp survival epic based on a (spoiler alert) true story

Review: A new film genre seems to have grown up: the extreme survival movie

She’s a hippie; he’s a posh English bloke. A few minutes of their lovey-dovey speak and you’ll be yearning for return to the drifting boat and the looming skies

Film Title: Adrift

Director: Baltasar Kormákur

Starring: Shailene Woodley, Sam Claflin, Grace Palmer, Jeffrey Thomas, Elizabeth Hawthorne, Tami Ashcroft

Genre: Adventure

Running Time: 96 min

Wed, Jun 27, 2018, 13:10

   

When we were looking in the other direction, a new genre seems to have grown up: the extreme survival movie. This damp windy yachting epic most conspicuously suggests Robert Redford (ahem) adrift in All is Lost. But we’ve seen something similar in 127 Hours, Gravity and The Revenant.

The great challenge for the film-makers is to keep us interested in one person – often muttering unconvincingly to themselves – as they seek to extricate themselves from nature’s nightmares.

At least Leonardo DiCaprio got to beat up a bear in The Revenant. Like Robert Redford in All is Lost, poor Shailene Woodley has here little but the sea and a crumbling vessel as antagonists.

We begin with Tami (Woodley) coming to in the wrecked remains of her sailing boat somewhere a long way from land. There is initially no sign of her boyfriend Richard Sharp (Sam Claflin). She is not the sort to give up and welcome death’s embrace.

Having located the badly injured Richard, she sets to her sextant and plots a course for distant Hawaii. Only bits of the mast and sail remain. Sticking close to the real Tami Oldham Ashcraft’s account of her survival – I’m afraid the phrase “true story” probably offers a spoiler in itself – the film neglects to include any sharks, pirates or tsunamis.

There is one grimly inevitable reconstruction of The Raft of the Medusa, but the main strand is mostly concerned with worrying, fishing and gazing at the horizon.

Disaster specialist Baltasar Kormákur, director of Everest, breaks up this thread with flashbacks to the couple’s cute meet on Tahiti. A few minutes of their bland lovey-dovey speak – she’s a hippie; he’s a posh English bloke – and you’ll be yearning for return to the drifting boat and the looming skies.

Extreme survival movies have to be very bad indeed if they fail to trigger emotion

A versatile actress with a good line in crumpled despair, Woodley does just enough to persuade us she’d be better off above water. What really sustains interest, however, is the promise of an eventual sight of land.

Extreme survival movies have to be very bad indeed if they fail to trigger emotion when the first seagull lands or the first twig bumps against the bow. For all the film’s ordinariness, the end remains a properly fist-punchy moment.

One thing though. I can buy the fact that Tami would hold out as a vegetarian until the last moment, but would she really, in 1983, use the word “sick” to mean “good”. Answers on a postcard.  

Opens: June 29th