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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Jun 26, 2018

Adrift Movie Review: An Exciting Suspenseful True Story Of Survival After A Deadly Shipwreck With A Great Performance By Shailene Woodley

‘ADRIFT’ IS a story of survival based on the true experiences of a couple who were sailing their yacht from Tahiti to San Diego (a distance of 4,000 miles) when they get caught in a deadly hurricane. Set in 1983, Tami Oldham (Shailene Woodley), a free-spirited American, falls head over heels in love with Richard Sharp (Sam Claflin), an Englisman, while they in Tahiti.

Tami is an adventurer and has lived in Tahiti for five years, doing odd jobs on ships. She’s quite contented spending her days on the beach and surfing. You could say she’s adrift. Then she meets Richard, who aims to travel around the world on a boat that he himself built. They’re quickly attracted to each other, horsing around and jumping off cliffs together with him telling her: "I sailed half the world to find you”.

It was a whirlwind romance and Tami refuses to be separated from Richard when he accepts a commission to sail an older couple’s 44-foot yacht to San Diego. So, they sail together. At first, everything seems peaceful and happy, but then came Hurricane Raymond that ends their blissful days together. Their yacht is nearly destroyed by 100-foot waves and they are both badly injured.

Tami gets a bad wound on the head and some bruises. But it’s Richard who gets immobilized as he broke a leg that quickly becomes infected. He also had broken ribs. He drifts in and out of consciouness. Tami then becomes the resourceful taskmaster who should do immediate repairs on the boat to avoid its sinking into the ocean.

She pumps the water out of the cabin, fixes the sail, gathers canned food and fresh water and also acts as caregiver to Richard while nursing her own injuries. She then tries to navigate the boat to Hawaii so they won’t die at the middle of the sea. Later on, she tries to catch some fish that she’s forced to eat even if she’s a vegetarian.

The scriptwriters choose not to tell the story in chronology. It starts right after the aftermath of the boat being pummeled by monstrous waves. Then, in long flashbacks, we are told how the couple met and got into the present situation. The film is directed by Icelandic filmmaker Baltazar Kormakur, who did the previous 2015 film about survival, “Everest”.

The decision to take a non-linear approach and go back and forth in telling the narrative might be annoying for some viewers as this kind of structure undercuts the intensity and tension of the ongoing crisis situation that they face. But somehow, it also helps our interest in building up the characters and their love story.

What gives the film the much needed boost is Shailene Woodley’s very committed performance as Tami. She gives a very poignant portrayal that goes beyond the emotional and physical demands of her role. It reminds us of Blake Lively similarly driven performance in the survival story about sharks, “The Shallows”.

We’ve seen other movies about accidents and survival at sea but they’re mostly about guys, like “Robinson Crusoe”, “Cast Away”, “Life of Pi” and “All is Lost”, but “Adrift” offers a uniquel female perspective. Shailene clearly demonstrates that surviving a shipwreck requires not only physical endurance and stamina but also mental and emotional determination as she faces the deprivation and struggles that challenged her along the way.

Sam has the less demanding role but he and Shailene have a charming chemistry together (Sam was in the “Hunger Games” movies while Shailene was in the “Divergent” series) that you root for them, especially at the start of their relationship and before Sam gets incapacitated. We as viewers somehow hope that they will both survive the man versus Mother Nature predicament that they got themselves in.

The cinematography captures the vastness and loneliness of being stranded in the middle ot the sea. The sequence showing the boat capsize is persuasively crafted with competence. The aerial shots showing the tiny boat marooned amidst the immensity of the ocean can be quite chilling. This must have been an extremely trying and rigorous shoot for the actors and the crew but the result is quite awe-inspiring.