Survival Instincts

Survival Instincts

Icelandic director Baltasar Kormákur has made his name looking at themes of man versus nature and what it takes for a human being to survive against insurmountable odds. From 2012’s The Deep, which dealt with a fisherman capsizing into sub-zero waters, to the big-scale Everest, which followed a disastrous mountaineering expedition, there’s almost something of the adventure-seeking Werner Herzog about Kormákur and his cinema.

Now he adds Adrift to this list. Like Everest and The Deep, it’s another true story of unbelievable heroism and the psychological and physical impact extreme conditions make on the human body.
Adapted from Tami Oldham Ashcraft’s book Red Sky In Mourning: A True Story of Love, Loss and Survival at Sea, as the title suggests, it’s as much a tale of romance as it is about thrills.

Played by Divergent and Big Little Lies star Shailene Woodley, Tami is a young traveller who pitches up in Tahiti with no particular idea of where life will take her. Then she meets Richard (Sam Claflin), an experienced British sailor and boat-builder who just wants to cruise around the oceans and see the world. Things change, however, when a couple ask him to sail their luxury yacht back to San Diego, for a fee. After some deliberation, Tami joins him.

It’s during this trip that Richard and Tami are caught in a freak storm, ripping into the boat. Somehow, Tami has the wherewithal to drag the injured Richard back on board, after he falls into the water. Yet with the film shifting back and forth through time, with minimal rations, and the very real prospect that their damaged vessel might never be found, Tami and Richard are left to contemplate their own mortality.

Woodley and Claflin have a convincing chemistry to their relationship, fully believable as a young couple in the first throes of love. Likewise, Woodley proves more than credible as someone thrown into an horrendous situation who is forced to muster every ounce of courage. Kormákur adeptly handles the storm sequences, although the film hinges on a rather unnecessary – and destabilising – twist. Still, those seeking a story that validates the hallucinatory power of love need look no further.

James Mottram

Adrift opens on 29 June. For more details, click here.

1. Still from Adrift.