[Screen It]

"ADRIFT"
(2018) (Shailene Woodley, Sam Claflin) (PG-13)


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QUICK TAKE:
Drama: After their sailboat is heavily damaged during a storm in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, a young woman must not only tend to her badly injured boyfriend, but also try to navigate them to land.
PLOT:
It's 1983 and 24-year-old American wanderer Tami Oldham (SHAILENE WOODLEY) has recently met and fallen in love with 33-year-old world traveler Richard Sharp (SAM CLAFLIN). Both have a love for sailing and thus agree to sail a yacht owned by some of Richard's friends from Tahiti to San Diego.

Along the way, however, they encounter a bad storm that turns into a raging hurricane that leaves the boat wrecked and Richard badly injured. With food and water running out, Tami must then try to keep both of them alive while attempting to navigate to land that's thousands of miles away.

OUR TAKE: 6 out of 10
It's a common human trait to care more about the wellbeing of family members, loved ones and friends than complete strangers. That's not to say that we don't experience compassion for or help those we don't know, but if one's given the choice of saving someone they know versus a stranger, they're inevitably going with option number one.

Storytellers have known this pretty much since the first attempts at spinning yarns and thus they usually allow their readers, listeners and viewers some time to get to know their characters before tossing them -- both the fictional figures and audience members -- into whatever dramatic narrative maelstrom that's been concocted for them.

After all, if you feel like you know -- or even better yet actually like -- the character or characters before the inciting incident, the more likely you are to be engaged and root for their success related to or survival from whatever their predicament might be.

For example, if we didn't get the chance to know Brody, Hooper and Quint in "Jaws" before they're out on the Orca hunting for and then being hunted by Bruce the shark, and instead were just presented as strangers to us, the result would have been far less gripping and memorable than it turned out.

Thus, when director Baltasar Kormákur -- working from a script by Aaron Kandell, Jordan Kandell, and David Branson Smith -- immediately throws us into the aftermath of some apparently horrific boating accident in the first moments of "Adrift," I wondered how all involved were going to proceed in getting us to care about these strangers (one seen floating downward under the water, the other unconscious in the flooded wreckage of the cabin) suddenly presented to us.

But then the film does the seemingly inevitable and predictable and rewinds to "five months earlier" where we see 24-year-old Tami Oldham (Shailene Woodley) arrive in Tahiti with no apparent agenda and no operational timeline, only to watch ruggedly handsome and nearly a decade older Richard Sharp (Sam Claflin) show up in port after yet another solo sailing trip around the world.

During those moments, the offering drew some of my critical ire in that I'm no fan of films that start with one scene and then rewind to show the moments leading up to that before eventually catching up and then continuing past the introductory scene. Fortunately, Kormákur and company don't go that exact route and instead jump back and forth between the past and present.

In the former, we see the couple meet, fall for each other, accept a lucrative offer to transport a yacht from Tahiti to San Diego and then eventually encounter a bad storm at sea. In the latter, we watch as Tami tries to keep badly injured Richard alive while also attempting to navigate the crippled sailboat from the middle of the Pacific to any form of land.

And while even that back and forth storytelling might seem contrived and rote to some, there's actually logic at work here, although it isn't fully revealed until late in the film. While that revelation might irritate some viewers who've invested their time and perhaps heart into how things will play out, once one realizes and appreciates the method in the apparent narrative madness it all makes perfect sense. Of course, not knowing how the true-life event on which this is based ultimately played out in real life will make all of the difference in the world, so it's best to go in with little to no familiarity with that.

All of that said, I didn't find the overall offering as compelling or harrowing as say, "All Is Lost" (where Robert Redford played a character in a similar situation, albeit all by himself) and there are some moments that start to drag and make things feel longer than the running time of nearly 100 minutes. But at least it's far better than the Kate Winslet/Idris Elba plane crash survival movie "The Mountain Between Us."

Speaking of large landforms, Kormákur previously helmed the survival in nature dramatic thriller "Everest," and like that film he creates a completely believable visual scenario here that, if ever presented as a double feature with Redford's film, "Life of Pi" or even "Titanic," could assure those uneasy about being out on the water with no land in sight will remain on terra firma.

With solid performances from the leads and a believable romantic chemistry between their characters, one ends up caring about them and how things will play out. And for that, "Adrift" rates as a 6 out of 10.




Reviewed May 30, 2018 / Posted June 1, 2018


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