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Adrift - 2018

Adrift - 2018

Director(s): Baltasar Kormákur

Writer(s): Aaron Kandell, Jordan Kandell and David Branson Smith (screenplay)

Cinematography by: Robert Richardson

Editor(s): John Gilbert

Cast: Shailene Woodley, Sam Claflin, Jeffrey Thomas and Elizabeth Hawthorne

Synopsis: Based on the true story of survival, a young couple's chance encounter leads them first to love, and then on the adventure of a lifetime as they face one of the most catastrophic hurricanes in recorded history (IMDB).


I’m somewhat of a sucker for survival movies. I love a good showcase of human perseverance even in the face of insurmountable odds. A situation where nobody would fault you for giving up and they would praise you for the fact that you didn’t, always leads to a movie going experience equivalent to a roller-coaster of emotions. Among my favorites are Life of Pi, Cast Away and The Impossible. It’s just human nature to root for these people and rejoice once they make it out. In Adrift we get another true story told through the lens of Hollywood that fails to 100% capture the incredible feat of survival the real-life story was. 

Quick note: like I said this is a true story and I would fully recommend not researching it prior to viewing it, because it contains major spoilers to the story.


For a survival movie to fully work, in my eyes, it should accomplish a few things. First, it should make you care about the characters, so you are fully invested in their quest to survive. The event that thrust them into their peril has to be visceral or shocking, and make the audience fearful of any similar event happening to them. And finally, the survivors have to face multiple roadblocks along the way to re-engage the audience as they have to overcome another obstacle to survive.

For the most part, Adrift checked off some of these criteria, but it didn’t deliver them as well as its predecessors. I liked the characters, especially Shailene Woodley as free spirit Tami, going where the wind takes her. She brought gravitas to key scenes and I saw a wide range of emotions perfectly displayed by her throughout the runtime. I didn’t buy the romance between her and Sam Claflin. He was fine, but I can’t help to think she needed a better dancing partner. I did care about their survival, but I was turned off a bit by the lack of chemistry between them. Weird to say I wanted her to survive and if he did well, that’s fine too. 


Quick note: this will be vague to avoid spoilers, but they reveal something in the third act. I understood why they did it and it was a great way to represent the sentiment Tami had, I just felt a bit cheated by the reveal.

The event that thrust them into this peril was fine, I guess. The special effects and the scale didn’t add up to the ambition of the movie, and the way the movie is edited there is no rush of adrenaline given to the audience since the event is shown pretty much towards the end of the movie. So, you are left with knowing the results of the event before you watch it sucking the air out of the room. As for the obstacles along the way there are little to none, so essentially you are just watching them hopelessly float in the ocean and the main obstacle is time. I think that’s why they decided to edit the movie the way they did, opening with the aftermath and intercutting how they got to that point. But, I still felt I just watched a broken boat float towards survival. Not to take anything away from the actual true story, I just don’t think Hollywood did it justice.


Adrift is a romance movie wrapped in a survival movie and doesn’t fully deliver on either genre. The directing was solid, the score was ok and the sound editing was for the most part thrilling. Anchored by a solid performance from Shailene Woodley, it managed to keep me engaged throughout the runtime, but leaving me wanting a lot more from the end-product. It’s not a bad movie, it’s just ok and I wouldn’t fault you if you waited for it to hit your streaming service. Shailene Woodley is why I love movies.

Adrift is currently playing in theaters. It’s a Netflix movie.

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