Adrift brings nothing new to the tradition of lost-at-sea movies, despite director Baltasar Kormákur’s prior experience with the genre – his similarly premised The Deep picked up a raft of European film awards in 2013. Adrift ticks the right boxes in terms of production design, make up and costuming, from sparkling Tahitian beaches to Shailene Woodley’s 40-days-at-sea emaciation. The opening, which feels like it was designed for 3D, features Adrift’s most interesting cinematography, but ultimately what should be a visually dynamic and exciting watch is often remarkably boring.
The non-linear structure plunges us straight into post-storm peril, continually interweaving flashbacks which relay Tami’s (Woodley) burgeoning romance with Richard (Sam Claflin). This approach robs several scenes of all suspense and is merely a gimmick to prop up a silly and totally guessable plot twist. To make matters worse, the twist is patronisingly over-explained – not once, but twice.
No film about two people stranded at sea should be funny, yet Adrift is sporadically so – unintentionally of course. Beware any premise which enables a lone actor to repeatedly talk to themselves. Adrift would be better with the sound muted, and it would still be just as intelligible. The dialogue is awkward and unconvincing – particularly in the paint-by-numbers romance scenes – but at least the screenplay has the self-awareness to nod to its own cheesiness.
Woodley and Claflin, blessedly, are watchable leads in a film that has little else to recommend it. Neither are at their best though, and Claflin is again typecast as an arrogant but soft-centred stereotype of posh male Englishness.
Adrift is extremely rote; Kormákur and co lazily combine tropes all too recognisable from other movies, imbuing them with a cringy sincerity that the feeble storytelling can’t justify. For an innovative take on scantily-clad young woman versus the ocean, try The Shallows instead.
CAST: Shailene Woodley, Sam Claflin, Grace Palmer, Jeffrey Thomas
DIRECTOR: Baltasar Kormákur
WRITERS: Tami Ashcraft (book), Aaron Kandell, Jordan Kandell, David Branson Smith
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.