Icelandic Producer/Director Baltasar Kormákur (The Oath) has teamed up with twin writers Aaron and Jordan Kandell (Moana) and David Branson Smith (Enlightened) to bring us Adrift, the true story of an ill-fated journey across the Pacific Ocean.
When free-spirits and budding soul mates Tami Oldham and Richard Sharp agree to deliver a 45-foot yacht, the Hazana, from Tahiti to San Diego, they believe their sailing skills are enough to make the 4,000-mile journey. But when category 4 Hurricane Raymond forms off the coast of South America, their trip turns from a romance to a nightmare. The storm seems to dog their every attempt to get clear of it, finally nearly destroying the boat and its pilots. All that remains is a tale of survival on the high seas, by whatever physical and psychological means possible.
The film focuses almost exclusively on Tami (Shailene Woodley, Big Little Lies) and Richard (Sam Claflin, The Hunger Games series) to the exclusion of any other character mattering. True-to-life stories have something of a higher standard when it comes to making the characters seem not only believable but also real. Both Woodley and Claflin give exceptionally human performances. Woodley’s portrayal of a woman who is determined to survive the virtually unsurviveable is noteworthy in particular.
The story is told in stages, beginning after the calamity and working back and forth in flashbacks. Most filmmakers who attempt this fail, and instead create something disjointed and difficult to follow at times. Kormákur finds a way to surmount this, giving us something cohesive that provides flashbacks in just the right measure at just the right moments. He even manages to do so while changing very little of the actual events that took place, and this is even more remarkable.
The cinematography was great for almost every scene, and in the more harrowing moments where it mattered the most, exceptional. The use of underwater lighting in both quiet and urgent moments, as well as mood-setting camera angles in the storm, hold up to any other feature of the film.
The soundtrack and sound effects add to the scenes – music and songs in happy times, and nerve-wracking instrumentals, scrapes, and poundings during the destruction and survival effectively draw the viewer into the mood of the moment.
There is virtually nothing negative to say about the film, as long as the viewer knows exactly what they are getting themselves into. Any comparisons to Titanic that may emerge would be misleading, as there are some similarities, but only if one started the Cameron film from the last thirty minutes. Adrift is more survival than romance story, and the writers and directors rarely let the viewer forget that for long.
While it will not be breaking any box office records, Adrift is a fine enough film in the true (and even fictional) survival drama genre to leave a longstanding mark in the industry.