MOVIE REVIEW: A seasoned survival drama with a gentle twist


Director: Baltasar Kormakur

Starring: Shailene Woodley, Sam Claiflin

Running time: 96 minutes


Those who can, do, to bastardise one of George Bernard Shaw's best-known lines.

Those who can't, sit on the sidelines and watch - with our mouths hanging wide open.

Having conquered Everest, with Jason Clarke, Jake Gyllenhaal and Josh Brolin, in the true story of New Zealand climber Rob Hall's ill-fated assault on the summit, Icelandic director Baltasar Kormakur now pits himself against the ocean.

In so doing, he takes us as close to the eye of a Category 4 cyclone as anyone would ever want to get.

Even more formidable than the wall of water that rises up to scuttle the yacht at the centre of this triumph-over-the-odds story, however, is the resilience of the young woman upon whose memoir it is based.

Having survived 40 days in a leaky boat, with no mast and little food or water, Tami Oldham returned to the open seas.

As the woman herself sails into the closing credits, audiences can only look on in wonder.

Presumably, there was some kind of recovery period before she got back on the boat, so to speak. But that's another movie.

Shailene Woodley and Sam Claflin in a scene from Adrift.
Shailene Woodley and Sam Claflin in a scene from Adrift. Supplied


Part romance, part Pacific Island fantasy, part survival drama, Adrift tells the story of a free-spirited young traveller (Shailene Woodley) who is trying to get as far away as she can from her previous life in suburban San Diego, which appears to have been less-than-idyllic.

While doing some odd jobs for a boat builder in Tahiti, she meets her soulmate, a suave English sailor named Richard Sharp (Sam Claiflin), when he docks at a neighbouring jetty.

He's smitten and so is she.

Hired to sail a yacht back to the US, the young couple's 6500km adventure veers dramatically off course after they are surprised by Hurricane Raymond.

Part of this film's appeal lies in the way it cuts fluidly back and forth between the characters' post-capsize predicament, and the story of how they got there.

Kormakur doesn't rush the love story, which unfolds against an idyllic backdrop, or the day-to-day rhythm of life at sea for a couple of good-looking adventurers.

A good deal of the film's success lies in its leading lady's ability to ground her character. Woodley's version of Tami Oldman is a resourceful everywoman who taps into extraordinarily deep reserves; she's eminently relatable as the best we could hope to be.

Claflin is naturally appealing, too, as the charismatic Brit.

Having proved his versatility in Lone Scherfig's WWII comedy Their Finest, he confirms his leading man appeal in Adrift.

Kormakur gives as much weight to their close quarters relationship as he does to the action sequences.

Adrift opens on Thursday.

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