Thursday, September 8, 2011

Alive (1993)

Perseverance in the face of an accident

This was based on real events about survival and holding on when an impossible event, that includes friends and loved ones, causes others to make decisions and sacrifices that they would have never done before in their comfortable lives. "Alive" wasn't made to be an action/adventure story in the wilderness but more of a drama that concentrates on the people and the emotional impact of how far they had to go to hang on.

In 1972, a plane carrying a Uruguayan rugby team and other passengers are passing through the Andes mountains for a match in Chile. Everything is fun and games with the world in the palm's of their hands, until they choke up when going through a rough patch of weather. Before everyone knows it, it's the real deal as the vision of the pilots gets blurred by the atmosphere and they clip a mountain top before crashing into the freezing, snow covered terrain. A share of the passengers flew out of the plane before impact and then there are those that are injured or dead when they abruptly stop, luckily without explosion (see Hollywood, not everything is combustible), but still with a wrecking impact of toppled seats and contorted passengers. Various wounds and psychological trauma runs rampant and those that are better off scrounge up supplies till they can get rescued. Communications are out, temperatures drop at night and food is scarce among the remaining at that point who use the somewhat intact fuselage as a shelter.

The captain of the rugby team, Antonio (Vincent Spano), keeps everybody together with a game plan and reassurances, until matters get worse when they think they're going to be rescued and the remaining food is quickly gone through. Roberto (Josh Hamilton), who was attending medical school, acts as stand in doctor after their team physician died, along with his wife. It becomes a test of human will and endurance as the days pass by with little hope in sight but what they make of their pitiful situation. They see how hard it is to trek even a small ways as young and athletic as they are. A man named Nando (Ethan Hawke) isn't taken seriously at first when he boasts that he's going to go out on foot and then eat the flesh of the dead pilots for sustenance because they were the ones that got them in the situation in the first place. Desperation hits with bad news from a hand held radio. Nando tells all his proposition and it's taken mostly with disbelief and derision. "I don't think I could do it. How could we go back to our families?" "You could go back alive. I think they'd prefer that." "...are you ready to go out there and cut flesh from a human body and eat it?" "It's like communion. From their death, we live."

The story and events gradually unfold as you get a feel for the passengers. The simple things are shown as they bide their time with song, prayer and idle talk to stick together as a unit. This comes with some emotional scenes but it didn't seem like they set out to make this a through-and-through tear jerker. There's some humor and other areas where they have to push their feelings aside for the time being if they want to keep going. They first go through a crash, battle starvation and then if that wasn't enough combat acts of nature. A few take a trip to retrieve a battery from the detached tail end to get the radio working to call for an SOS. Though the repair work was harder than it looks and this time they plan out an impossible journey with only makeshift equipment and a desperate hope to get help for the rest who are deteriorating in health and spirit.

Their English at first might seem somewhat formal in areas, but my guess is that they phrased sentences how it would be closer to Spanish. Thus despite U.S. actors, they didn't include any blatant Americanisms in their speech. Still, some parts come off as a little forced and unnatural when trying to convey the array of emotions that the real people felt, but, on the other hand, I'd imagine it's better that the actors performed somewhat unpolished to show spontaneity to the situation rather than going with clipped dialogue delivered from a comfortable movie set. They didn't lose sight of the real events with a distracting amount of poetic license--even though there are some aspects glazed over for the sake of narrative as well as handsome and recognizable actors in place of the real people--it sticks close to what happened. The rescue attempts aren't shown and it's kept focused on the people at hand. The '70s version "Supervivientes de los Andes" used a framing technique to show the government working to find the plane, but it was spaced so far apart to lose its driving power. The after isn't shown beyond a brief but rewarding scene, but, then again, it shows them as a connective group by my guess to not single anyone out as a lone hero--for which Nando in real life says he's not--not to mention this is a means to point a viewer towards another medium and serve as the audio and video introduction.

There are some enthralling shots of the scenery with a landscape that has seen countless days, months, years and seasons, as well as generations of species pass by and still to continue going on well past the mentioned's lifespan. It goes to show that nature can be both beautiful and treacherous, even when people are caught in the middle. It makes no judgments, which gives thought to wonder if it should be studied, feared or awed--probably a combination of all of the above.

Rating: 7.5/10

Director: Frank Marshall (Arachnophobia)
Stars: Ethan Hawke, Vincent Spano, Josh Hamilton
Link: IMDB

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