Factual bio-pic survival dramas are a firm favourite of Hollywood at the moment. Think 127 Hours, Into The Wild and Everest to name a few recent examples. Director Baltasar Kormákur navigates the choppy waters of the disaster movie genre again in Adrift. Off the back of his success directing Everest, Kormákur was the obvious choice to take the wheel on this project.
The cast of Adrift is small, for the majority of the movie, it's just Shailene Woodley (Tami) and Sam Claflin (Richard) on screen. Thankfully, the duo gives a convincing performance of a young couple who unexpectedly find themselves in love and peril. While the film is most certainly a disaster movie, it's also a love story. The recently hooked-up pair, take the fateful decision to sail a boat from Tahiti to the USA.
Tami has reservations about taking on the notoriously unpredictable pacific ocean. However, the lure of a bumper payday when the couple arrives in San Diego with the wealthy owners' boat proves a tempting proposition. Richard and Tami are both accomplished sailors, the Pacific crossing in a millionaires yacht will be a tough journey, but it shouldn't present them too many challenges – or so they thought.
The movie starts in reverse chronicle order. Disaster hits first, and later, we discover out how the couple ended up alone and adrift in the endless Pacific ocean. Usually, I'm not a fan of this device for storytelling. But here it works perfectly. By switching from present to past, the audience gets a break from the tension of the disaster, and the film avoids a lengthy and often dull opening third.
A film like Adrift only works if the main characters are believable and can make the audience care. I've seen too many disaster movies where I hope the main character dies after 20 minutes! They're either annoying to watch or unconvincing.
Adrift is entirely different, Shailene Woodley is brilliant as Tami, she brings a vulnerable, yet gritty and determined quality to the character. Sam Claflin plays English sailor Richard Sharp; he nails that slightly awkward English bloke thing, which is not surprising as he's English after all. Both Shailene and Sam are very watchable together, and a big part of what makes this movie work. Director Baltasar Kormákur has taken a challenging project (never work on water) and produced a thrilling true-life drama.
Is this a love story with a disaster? Or a disaster movie with a love story? It doesn't matter which way round this film is framed. Adrift is the amazing true story of Tami Oldham, who at 23-years-old, survived 41 days adrift in the Pacific Ocean. It's great to watch as a couple and if you want to see more movies like this, check out our list here.