Well, at least it wasn’t a pain to look at.
Synopsis: As the two avid sailors set out on a journey across the ocean, Tami Oldham and Richard Sharp couldn’t anticipate they would be sailing directly into one of the most catastrophic hurricanes in recorded history. In the aftermath of the storm, Tami awakens to find Richard badly injured and their boat in ruins. With no hope for rescue, Tami must find the strength and determination to save herself and the only man she has ever loved. ADRIFT is the unforgettable story about the resilience of the human spirit and the transcendent power of love. (VVS Films)
Starring: Shailene Woodley, Sam Claflin, and Grace Palmer
Writers: Aaron Kandell, Jordan Kandell, and David Branson Smith
Director: Baltasar Kormákur
Rating: 14A (Canada)/PG-13 (United States)
Running Time: 97mins
Icelandic director Baltasar Kormakur’s has produced solid directorial efforts previously, particularly 2015’s Everest since it gave the filmmaker an opportunity to not only combine physical immersion, due to the immaculate sound design and the stunning VFX, but also give us an engaging story that was incredibly well written and acted. Does Adrift manage to achieve the same? Well, partially. Adrift excels in its ability to feel immersive in the same way as Everest was, as it’s technical aspects are top-notch but unfortunately, the film is brought down by truly uninspired and lackluster storytelling that make for a film that should have been way more investing.
As mentioned previously, all the technical aspects here are truly a feat. Aside from some not-so-good green screen moments, the film isn’t painful to look at at all. As seen in his previous work, Kormarkur truly knows how to shoot nature- and it shows here. If anything, this is a great film to watch on a 4K TV- although shot on a sound stage, it seems so authentic. It is also worth noting that in parts, the story works- there are some truly memorable moments, and the problem doesn’t lie in either of the leads. Woodley and Claflin as Tami Oldham and Richard Sharp try to make this more than just a visual showcase, and they truly make some of the scenes more powerful than they could be with other actors.
Where do the problems here lie, though? Mostly, this film faults in its equally unconventional and poor structure. Kormakur makes the risky decision to have the film start with the end- making one of the big reveals right from the get go. This would’ve been something worth dismissing, however, the writers decide to continue making these decisions throughout the film’s run time, making for a truly jarring film that’s extremely difficult to follow. Essentially, the film cuts back and forth between the characters attempting to survive at sea, and to a few months earlier, with the two building their relationship, leading into them setting sail on the film’s central disaster. This does not work in the films favor, especially in the second act, when these timeline switches happen more frequently. Although these two separate acts are intriguing in parts, the manner in which they are mixed together manages to make them uninteresting.
Quite a few of the film’s problems lie in this formatting choice- and most other issues derive from this decision. However, the majority of the technical work on display makes up for these issues. The makeup is awards-worthy (their injuries look frighteningly accurate thanks to this department). In addition, the film is stunningly shot by Robert Richardson, former collaborator with Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino. Although impressive, these aspects can’t save this film from being the unoriginal, bloated mess it often is.