Combustible Celluloid
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With: Shailene Woodley, Sam Claflin, Grace Palmer, Jeffrey Thomas, Elizabeth Hawthorne
Written by: Aaron Kandell, Jordan Kandell, David Branson Smith, based on a book by Susea McGearhart, Tami Oldham Ashcraft
Directed by: Baltasar Kormákur
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for injury images, peril, language, brief drug use, partial nudity and thematic elements
Running Time: 120
Date: 06/01/2018

Adrift (2018)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Schlock the Boat

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Flipping back and forth between a drippy romance before the storm, and intense amounts of anguish and suffering after it, this based-on-a-true-story survival movie is overly reverent, and stultifying.

In Adrift, Tami (Shailene Woodley) wakes up to find that the boat she's on has been hit by a storm. She spots her boyfriend, Richard (Sam Claflin) clinging to a dingy. She builds a new sail in order to reach him, and hauls him aboard. His leg and ribs are broken, so she sets about pumping the water out from below, finding food and fresh water, and navigating toward the nearest land.

In flashback, Tami and Richard meet in Tahiti and are immediately drawn to each other. They are hired to bring a yacht from there back to San Diego — Tami's home — and then the storm hit. Back in the present, they manage to catch rainwater, but the food begins to run out and Tami, a vegetarian, must catch and eat fresh fish. But Tami has one more challenge to overcome.

Actors love movies like Adrift because they are allowed to use their most intense, high-velocity emotional ammunition; Academy voters tend to love them too, and awards are frequently given. Woodley, who also produced, first appears lithe and muscular, and then later, wasted and gaunt; she also endured makeup to make her look sun-baked and destroyed. Her commitment is impressive, but it's too bad her co-star, Claflin, is so lackluster, and that the resulting movie is so glum and dispiriting.

Director Baltasar Kormakur (101 Reykjavik, Contraband) fails to use the flashbacks or flash-forwards to find any resting ground for the story; it thrums at a constant, wearying high pitch. The music score's wailing string section doesn't help.

Worse, the screenplay employs what could be easily described as a cheat, especially for a movie that wears its "true story" credentials on its sleeve (it ends with real-life footage). It feels as if it's so constrained with the effort of honoring the real people — whose actual story is indeed remarkable — that it can't do anything but recycle the genre's cliches.

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