Adrift Movie Review
When it comes to sailing across oceans, just say nope. Adrift, a true story about two carefree lovebirds who get walloped by a hurricane and struggle to survive on a crippled yacht with limited food and water—and a makeshift sail—is a reminder that people who opt to put themselves into such situations are silly, silly creatures. As for the movie, it’s a good but not great drama-thriller that has a lot going for it, but never quite brings things altogether.
Shailene Woodley delivers a fantastic performance as Tami Ashcraft, a young wanderer who meets the man of her dreams and then spends more than a month adrift (are you really adrift if you still are able to maneuver?). Woodley nails the role and once again proves she’s one of the best young actresses working today.
Sam Claflin is also terrific.
The movie itself is well done, even if it doesn’t quite work as a whole. Director Baltasar Kormákur, who made the effectively entertaining true-life survival thriller Everest, brings the story to life with sincerity and a more reserved approach than you’d expect from the guy behind 2 Guns and Contraband. He’s as interested in what makes Tami click as he is in what she did to survive, and that interest guides the course of the film (and of course enables Woodley to work her magic). Adrift looks great, too, and Kormákur makes you believe that you’re alone at sea with his characters.
Even still, Adrift never achieves maximum speed, in part because of the decision to tell the movie through a series of flashbacks. The benefit of this approach is that you don’t have to wait for 40 minutes for the storm to hit and things to take a turn for the worse; on the flip side, Kormákur’s decision to bounce back and forth nearly every scene means the film is never able to mount to anything greater than a series of snapshots of Tami’s time at sea. A few flashbacks would have been fine, but the jumping around becomes tedious and never allows you to experience the true gravity of the situation.
How much more intense would the storm sequence have been had Kormákur not cut it into four or five segments? Sometimes you need to know when to remain focused for maximum effect. And had the film lingered on the stretch where Tami is truly adrift, we likely would have appreciated the despair—not to mention her efforts to survive—much more than we would through the series of vignettes we ultimately get.
Oddly, as result, Adrift drags at times, even though it’s only an hour and a half long. I found myself shifting in my seat, waiting for the movie to pick up a few knots. It never does.
Adrift is a perfectly fine film, but it’s also a film of missed opportunities. Despite an award-worthy performance by Shailene Woodley, Adrift is a lesser version of other, better survival films that have come before it.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.