Starring: Ethan Hawke, Josh Hamilton, Vincent Spano
Director: Frank Marshall
Running Time: 120 mins
Alive is an American film about the true story of Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571, which crashed in the remote Andes Mountains with a rugby team on board, leaving the crash survivors to battle the harshest elements for weeks on end, and to make some of the toughest decisions to stay alive.
This is quite a stunning true story, showcasing an incredible degree of resilience and bravery in the face of the most desperate conditions imaginable. In that, it’s an engrossing watch from start to finish, and particularly powerful in the darkest moments, although there are elements of Alive that are a little too perfect and prim for what clearly needed to be somewhat of a grittier story.
Of course, the true story here isn’t all doom and gloom, and there are definite positives that deserve to be showcased in this film. Above all, the way in which the passengers of the plane managed to survive against the elements, as well as their incredible ingenuity and drive in finding a way to get back home, prove riveting and uplifting throughout, and that’s portrayed fantastically by director Frank Marshall.
What’s more is that the performances here make it an even more engrossing watch, and the characters’ arcs go in a different way to what you’d expect from a typical survival movie. I won’t spoil anything, but the way in which the characters develop throughout makes for a riveting and refreshing watch, while the performances from the likes of Josh Hamilton, Ethan Hawke, Vincent Spano and the whole cast are generally convincing in their portrayal of the passengers’ extreme toil in the desperate situation, as well as their drive to find a way back to safety.
So, there are uplifting and moving elements to this film that will warm your heart, but if there’s one thing about this film that will really stay with me, it’s definitely the darker points. The film’s brighter side makes for an engaging watch, but there’s nothing more powerful than when we see our characters faced with a life-changing decision in order to survive, ranging from tense and dangerous moments against the elements to some genuinely unsettling and heavy-going scenes that really make you question your own values, and whether you would do the same in order to survive.
However, while I was stunned by those darkest moments, I didn’t feel that the film as a whole was really dark or hard-hitting enough to do its amazing true story justice. Thinking about the hardships that the passengers went through in real life is pretty incredible, but there are elements of this film that soften it all a little too much, as it takes a few too many Hollywood-esque shortcuts to avoid showcasing the heavier and grittier realities that were faced by the people.
Above all, I felt that more effort could have been made to make the actors appear a little more exhausted and dishevelled, given that they portray a group of people stuck starving in the snowy wilderness for a long period of time. While the story shows their desperation, the majority of the characters (and particularly the leads) don’t look all that much like they’ve been struggling to survive against all odds for weeks on end, something that really dampens the dramatic nature of their situation for you as a viewer.
Secondly, when it comes down to the darkest moments, things generally turn out fine a little too easily to really be believable. Although I was glad that the film had moments of gritty realism, as well as taking somewhat of a different path with its character relationships than many similar movies do, I felt that there wasn’t enough of a struggle and conflict when those heaviest decisions have to be taken, while the film’s finale is far too simple and bright to prove a satisfying ending to a long and devastating period of survival on the brink of death, something that again took me out of the most powerful drama.
Overall, I found Alive an engrossing film that features a strong and uplifting story as well as impressive moments of unsettlingly dark drama, as well as good performances across the board, however it’s all just a little bit too Hollywood to let me consider it as a really great survival movie, often skipping over the harsher truths of the situation at the expense of potential dramatic power, which is why I’m giving it a 7.7.