By: Oberst Von Berauscht (Four Beers) –
Tami Oldham (Shailene Woodley) is an American drifter traveling the world, taking odd jobs to pay her way. Her travels take her to Tahiti, where she meets Richard Sharp (Sam Claflin), who lives on his own sailboat that he built himself. The two strike up a fast and powerful romance with each other, and then a wealthy couple Richard is friends with offers them $10,000.00 to sail their boat across the ocean to San Diego while they fly to England. While out on the open ocean, however, they encounter a powerful storm and the boat is badly mangled by a rogue wave. Tami wakes up after a head injury to find Richard missing. As she puts herself together, she scans the horizon to find Richard clinging to an overturned lifeboat. After getting him aboard, she sees that he is badly injured and she will have to oversee their survival on her own.
Melty face-Man empathizes…
Director Baltasar Kormákur has a skill for adventure storytelling, and all the elements that need to be in those films are there. You have a couple of likable, idealistic, but slightly naive protagonists who find themselves in over their heads struggling to live. You have a gorgeous and spectacular setting that masks true danger ahead. The movie really pushes the romance angle of the story, and thankfully it is easy to buy into, as both leads throw themselves into very believable whirlwind relationship roles. And when the going gets rough, the movie thankfully avoids treating the characters as being overly ignorant of the situation; they take swift action to attempt to avoid impending disaster, even as impossible as that turns out to be.
“Your hair is eating my faaaaaaaace”
Director Kormákur and his editor John Gilbert make a crucial error in presenting this film in a non-linear fashion. It seems like a decision made to space the action set-pieces out more, to keep the movie from feeling lopsided. Indeed most survival movies are told in linear fashion and it wouldn’t have been a daring move to present the film the way so many others have come before it. But the haphazard way the movie switches between past and present doesn’t add to dramatic tension in any way, and in fact removes a lot of suspense. It also has the unfortunate side effect of weakening the impact of the survival sequences, because just when you are getting invested in the excitement the movie switches mood completely back into romance. I would love to see a re-edit of this movie that assembles it into a more linear presentation.
Shailene Woodley’s performance is strangely over the top here. As if Kormákur’s direction was for her to pull horrible exaggerated facial expressions in nearly every scene. Perhaps she was just trying too hard to act her ass off to eclipse her YA typecasting? Despite this overacting, she does have excellent onscreen romantic chemistry with Sam Claflin, which somewhat makes up for her overly eccentric moments. Still, when your smile is best compared to Blumhouse’s Truth or Dare… maybe you should have reined it in a bit.
Pictured above: The last movie of 2018 that you want to be compared with…
The biggest flaw in the movie is the big “twist” which comes near the end. Not because it is predictable (which it certainly is), but because they do everything but trumpet the twist with some of the most obvious clues. The opening shot of the movie gives the twist away to all but the most unfocused moviegoers. There are lines of dialogue that fall just short of directly explaining the symbolism of the scene in terms of the future twist. Granted, if you are at all familiar with the actual real life events of the film, you probably already know the twist anyway. That said, Kormákur managed a pretty deft feat with his previous survival film Everest in conveying a story where the ending is already widely known in a compelling way. So this feels like a stumble in comparison.
Rethinking some decisions?
While unquestionably flawed, Adrift does deliver enough romantic chemistry and adventure-survival thrills to justify a matinee ticket.
Adrift (2018) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: every time something new goes wrong
Take a Drink: for Shailene Woodley’s exaggerated facial expressions
Take a Drink: every time the movie flashes back or forward in time
Do a Shot: drink this shot as a toast to the Tom Waits songs on the soundtrack