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Adrift (A Movie Review)

Updated: Mar 8, 2020


ADRIFT (2018)

Starring Shailene Woodley, Sam Claflin, Grace Palmer, Jeffrey Thomas, Elizabeth Hawthorne, Kael Damlamian, Luna Campbell, Zac Beresford, Siale Tunoka and Tami Ashcraft.

Screenplay by Aaron Kandell & Jordan Kandell and David Branson Smith.

Directed by Baltasar Kormákur.

Distributed by STXfilms. 96 minutes. Rated PG-13.

Man (or woman) versus nature is always an intriguing subject for film or literature, a reminder that the world is so large and potentially dangerous, and we are so small and vulnerable. Adrift tells a scary story, a true story, and defangs it slightly to get a PG-13 rating, which will take care of its stars’ YA followings (Shailene Woodley did the Divergent series and The Fault in Our Stars, Sam Claflin was in the Hunger Games movies.

Adrift is not the best shipwreck movie ever. It’s not even the best one in the last few years: that would still be Robert Redford’s All is Lost. However, it tells an interesting story and it tells it pretty well.

Somewhat grounding the film is the back and forth narrative structure, which tends to calm some of the tension periodically. The film starts with Tami Oldham (Woodley) waking up after an unexpected hurricane has capsized the sailboat she has been taking from the islands to San Diego with her British boyfriend Richard Sharp (Claflin). The film the flips back and forth between flashbacks of their meeting and deciding to take the trip to the 41 days that the ship floated with only a sail before finding land.

It’s a compact, smart telling of the story. It doesn’t necessarily spend enough time on the storm itself. (Word is that it was originally a 2-hour film and 25 minutes were cut at the last minute, which is not a good sign.) However, it portrays survival – the hunger, the hallucinations, the boredom, the dangers of nature – with a smart, cool economy.

Honestly, Woodley and Claflin don’t exactly have a great connection – the part was originally supposed to be played by her old friend and co-star Miles Teller. Then again, Claflin spends a good portion of the film badly injured and flat on his back, so I guess romantic sparks are not so necessary.

The greatly limited cast gives the film a suitably claustrophobic feel. There is only one true surprise, one that I will not spoil for you, but the story is still mostly intriguing.

Director Baltasar Kormákur has a feel for life-or-death stories about Mother Nature – his last film was Everest. He does a smart, workmanlike job with the film.

Adrift is probably the type of film that will be either liked or disliked strongly by its audiences. I mostly enjoyed it. It was not quite as intense as I expected from the trailers, but maybe that’s a good thing. Adrift’s audience may skew a little younger; it’s a YA tragedy. And there is a place in the world for that.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2018 All rights reserved. Posted: June 1, 2018.

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