Adrift is anchored by solid direction and engaging performances.
Directed by Baltasar Kormákur / 2018
When Adrift opens, Tami (Shailene Woodley, Divergent) is just regaining consciousness among the wreckage of the yacht she and her fiance Richard (Sam Claflin, Me Before You) were sailing across the Pacific. It’s obvious rather quickly that Tami’s life has really taken a turn towards the suck, and she doesn’t have much time to figure out what happened and what she needs to do to avoid dying in a watery grave.
Based on Tami Oldham’s book recounting her story, Adrift tosses you into the deep end, if you’ll pardon the pun, right from the get go. Tami’s predicament is immediately engrossing. It will turn out that the two of them inadvertently sailed right into the heart of Hurricane Raymond, a category 4 hurricane with peak wind speeds of 145 mph that grew rapidly over the Pacific in October of 1983. Tami was below decks when the boat capsized, but Richard was flung overboard. Luckily, Tami finds him clinging, half-dead and broken, to what remains of the boat’s dingy and is able to drag him back on board. They’re reunited, but the storm has pushed them far off course and out of any shipping lanes. Low on food and water, with no hope for rescue, the two of them have to figure out how they’re going to survive.
The story then flashes back 5 months to the time when Tami and Richard first meet. She left home without a plan right after graduating high school and hasn’t looked back in the years she’s been gone. She’s made her way to the island of Tahiti, which is indeed a magical place, and there she meets fellow drifter, Richard. Richard’s been sailing around the South Pacific on a boat he built himself, and the two of them hit it off almost immediately.
The story of how Richard’s and Tami’s relationship grows and deepens over the next several months leading to their fateful boat journey is intercut with scenes of Tami and Richard aboard the wrecked vessel. Tami, under Richard’s guidance, is doing what she can to piece the boat back together and make it back to land. They could sail east towards the North American coast and hope their food and water supplies hold out long enough, or head west towards Hawaii. Hawaii is a much, much smaller target but they’d be sailing with the currents and prevailing winds, so hopefully have a faster crossing. If their navigation is just a little bit off, however…
The two leads’ struggle to survive makes for a compelling watch
All-in-all, Adrift is a pretty good movie. The two leads’ struggle to survive makes for a compelling watch. And the movie is pretty darn gorgeous to look at. Director Baltasar Kormákur (Everest, 2 Guns) and his cinematographer Robert Richardson (Kill Bill, Hugo, The Aviator- yes, that one- and Natural Born Killers just to name a few) really bring out the natural beauty of the islands and oceanscapes surrounding the action. Apparently, a great deal of this movie was actually shot on the open water, with no land in sight. Film history has shown us that’s not always the easiest thing to do (*cough*Waterworld*cough*), so good on the filmmakers for taking the effort.
The special effects team takes the spotlight when the storm finally does hit. Since its doing all the heavy lifting at that point, flaws in the digital effects work tend to be a bit more glaring, but for the most part the images are suitably harrowing. There’s a shot from the bow of the boat where we follow the hapless vessel up and down the waves, while in the background a veritable mountain of water approaches, looming high above them. Even if we hadn’t seen the outcome in the film’s opening, we know this isn’t going to end well for anyone.
The movie’s title, Adrift, is an obvious reference to Tami’s and Richard’s situation at the film’s start, right after the hurricane. But it encapsulates (perhaps too on-the-nose) where they were before they met as well. Tami arrives in the South Pacific with no job, knowing no one, and no idea how long she’s going to stay or what she’s doing next. She’s drifting through life, removed from her family and initially resistant to the idea of committing to a relationship, even with someone she really likes. It’s the bond between her and Richard, however, that gives her strength enough to keep on fighting to live, even when all hope seems lost.