Shailene Woodley Sam Claflin
Imagine yourself on a sailboat on stormy seas for over a month, when it’s often touch-and-go as to whether you’ll make your destination. It will take all your skill and ingenuity to survive (if you do). If these kinds of movies are thrilling and wondrous to you, you should go to Adrift.
I, on the other hand, get exhausted and feel inadequate as I watch the characters perform all kinds of brilliant jerryrigging with whatever they have to make do. But actually, that is just one of the strong points of this film (setting aside my own hang-ups), particularly well executed by Shailene Woodley. The actress is a wonder in being onscreen almost the entire time, and needing to show a huge range of all different kinds of emotions and physical feats. She has clearly proven her mettle as an actress here, even as much or more as in her award-winning roles in The Descendants, The Spectacular Now, and Divergent.
Another issue I have with the film is a favored technique of directors nowadays—jumping back and forth in time—although by the end of the story I could see why it might have been useful in this particular case. The opening scenes are jarring in that we don’t know what has happened—but clearly it’s something major. Then we’re tossed back and forth through past and present events that are intended to tell the story of these two people, Tami (Woodley) and Richard (Claflin), falling in love. Interspersing the love story into the unmitigated, harrowing boat scenes may be necessary for balance and to keep the audience engaged throughout.
These two people are portrayed in a very appealing light—another plus in the film—both adventurous and slightly devil-may-care, gentle, respectful and admiring of each other, and just naturally drawn together. It’s an easy coming together of two contemporary young adults who can goof around, but have good sense and substance when need be.
In basing his film on the true story about a couple getting caught in a hurricane and stranded in the Pacific Ocean without communication or navigation tools, director Baltasar Kormakur (Everest, Reykjavik) and his crew including cinematographer Robert Richardson (JFK, The Aviator, Hugo, Django Unchained), composer Volker Bertelmann (Lion, “Patrick Melrose”), and production designer Heimir Sverrisson (The Oath, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty) have created a beautifully rendered, stunning account of an unanticipated adventure.
Bottom Line: A thriller on the open seas, with the boat’s creaking sounds remaining with you long after.