Review Movie Review
Written by Rosie Fletcher
Film released by Pathé
Directed by Hans Horn
Written by Dave Mitchell and Adam Kreutner
Susan May Pratt as Amy
Richard Speight Jr. as James
Niklaus Lange as Zach
Ali Hillis as Lauren
Cameron Richardson as Michelle
Eric Dane as Dan
Amy is afraid of the water, but when three of her old school friends plan a reunion on a yacht, she’s willing to try to overcome her fear. Accompanied by her husband and baby daughter, and her good friend Dan’s vapid girlfriend Michelle, the group begin to "party down", until an act of carelessness leaves the six adults stuck in the middle of the ocean, miles from anywhere, and unable to get back on the boat. With no means of getting help, they’re faced with a mental and physical endurance test - one that has no guarantee of a happy ending.
What we have here is a horror/thriller with no antagonist. This is a survival horror about "people against the environment" where the environment is neutral. The Blair Witch Project, Wolf Creek and Open Water have given us situations where the environment is as significant as any monster. But all these films had tangible opponents of one sort or another as well: Blair Witch had the Witch herself; Wolf Creek the deeply unpleasant Mick Taylor and Open Water had its sharks. But, with the possible exception of Mick, had the protagonists not first been lost in the woods/outback/ocean these opponents would have been utterly impotent.
A film with no antagonist, other than the neutral vastness of the world, is an interesting progression. It seems like the natural next step in a new order of ultra-realistic horror, exploring fears of being out of our depth both physically and metaphorically. All these films involve young, confident, successful, white, middle class people. They are big fish in small ponds, searching for adventure in the world and finding themselves in situations beyond their control. Six people bobbing up and down in the ocean without a shark in sight could be something brave and terrifying.
What a pity, then, that Adrift takes this fresh idea and resorts to the worst kind of clichés in its dialogue, characters and plot. You’d be forgiven for not noticing this was a fresh idea at all.
Without any external antagonist, the director seems to have decided the real bad guy is the characters’ stupidity. If you can get over the original belief-stretching set up, you’re faced with a range of excruciating moments throughout the film. At one point, through freak good fortune, the six manage to get hold of a mobile phone from the deck of the boat, with working battery and reception. Having failed to realise that hanging up and calling the police would be more useful than trying to shout over someone on the line singing Happy Birthday, they pitch the phone into the sea in frustration. My ability to care what happened to these people plunged into the ocean with it. The idea of spending time with six such intensely unlikeable characters is certainly a scary one.
I’m reluctant to blame the actors for creating such a flat, two dimensional set of characters, but the script writer must stand up and be counted when the dialogue they have to work with include lines like:
"How’re you feeling?"
"Well, we are at sea."
This is the kind of script that could have been written by a computer programme: six irritating stereotypes fall off a boat and discuss God.
There isn’t a scrap of originality or bravery here; no point at which Adrift had the confidence to let the audience imagine themselves in that situation or to truly grasp the hugeness of the surroundings (which Open Water managed admirably). There’s nothing to be afraid of here, and not a single character you wouldn’t happily throw overboard yourself.
In fairness, I will say the sound and camera work is quite nice at some points: Amy going overboard is the most effective - and affecting - scene in the film. It’s enhanced by the distorted sound, the slow motion and Amy’s point of view shots.
Similarly, some of the scenes shot upwards from underwater work well - they encourage you to expect some sort of attack, while also giving you added perspective of how much expanse there is below. It’s not enough, though. The hints of talent guiltily peeping through the mire, like an elegant toe poking through an old sock, only serve to remind you how disappointing the film is.
On IMDB you’ll find Adrift listed with the alternative title of Open Water 2, and there’s no doubt the earlier film laid tracks for this movie. As German director Hans Horn said: "When a film about two people bobbing up and down in the ocean and getting nibbled by some sharks turned into a success, my story’s chances were better than ever...". While there are certainly similarities, it’s the differences that are more significant - different characters, different location, different writer and director and released by two different distributors (Open Water was released by Lionsgate). The biggest difference, though, is that Open Water was good.
Video, Audio and Special Features:
This was a cinema screening so picture, sound and extras will not be rated.
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