2006Director: Hans Horn
Cast: Susan May Pratt, Richard Speight Jr, Niklaus Lange, Eric Dane
he characters in Adrift (known Stateside as Open Water 2)—so irredeemably stupid—manage to totally screw themselves up and have one of the worst movie vacations since that Uruguayan rugby team felt a bit peckish. A weekend cruise on a luxurious party yacht goes horribly wrong for a group of old high school friends. They forget to let the ladder down before they jump into the ocean for a swim (whoops!). The boat proves impossible to climb. The group of idiots becomes increasingly desperate, as the friends begin to turn on each other. I am aware that this is “based on a true story,” and my comments are directed at the film as dramatic fiction, on its own terms.
First off, this is a hugely enjoyable film—mainly because I could smugly sit back and think, “I can see at least three ways to get back on this boat, but here they are, dying one by one … suckers.” Seriously, it took them a couple of hours to figure out that they should tie their swimming shorts together to make a rope. Then they let the 250-pound meathead test it out and, surprisingly, it rips—disappointing, huh? But they don’t try again. That would be excessive. They just cast the rope to sea, rather bored of all the fuss. In fact, they have an amazing thirst for self-destruction: One guy smashes his own head against the keel, another accidentally stabs himself in the gut, and two game babes (one girly, one butch) just swim off. When night falls, it hit me that they’ve only been in the water for about 4 hours and 5 of them have died in ways that were easily avoidable. They make dying look so frighteningly feasible.
Another element that’s always frustrating and intrusive in these castaway movies is the role of the camera. As in Open Water, to which this follow-up doesn’t so much owe a debt as a script, the camera is placed in a “naturalistic” way, bobbing up and down and getting in the way. It reminds me of a conversation Hitchcock apparently had with the composer for Lifeboat. Hitch apparently told him that he wouldn’t need his services as the audience would find it ridiculous for there to be music in such an isolated situation. The composer pointed out that it’s just as ridiculous that there’d be a camera. This is the problem with true loneliness on film; the camera is always a companion of some kind, and, in extension, so is the audience. As the cast whittles down to Amy and Dan, with baby Sara crying on board, I kept worrying about the poor old cameraman. Sooner or later, I thought, he’s going under.
The lack of ingenuity and effort the group put into rescuing themselves is shocking. I still cannot believe the rapidity with which they destroyed themselves. This is the truly frightening element at work here. Rather than the slow-burning menace of Polanski’s Knife in the Water or Welles’ The Deep, Horn’s film unfortunately opts for the shock tactics of The Hole or Cabin Fever. With a little more character work (aside from Amy’s overly relevant aqua-phobia) and composure, the film could have been genuinely gut-wrenching. Like the characters, the screenwriter appears all too eager to dive right in, without really thinking about what to do after making a splash.
These gripes aside, the film looks great and the individual performances are pretty good, with Richard Speight, Jr a standout as the disconcertingly sensitive husband. The direction is tight and evocative. In some ways, the simplicity of the plot is refreshing. There are no revelations, no real turns—just panic and drowning. As a debut feature, Adrift is a great calling card for Horn. He certainly has the style and no-nonsense approach, like Eli Roth and Neil Marshall, to be a powerful genre director.
There’s a slight political edge to the film. The yacht is a kind of floating American state: the arrogant action-men tie themselves in violent knots, before learning a little humility and sacrifice, eventually being rescued by a foreign presence. This theme is as muddled as it sounds, but gives the film a little more bite. Shots of torn American flags are like political porn, always crass but powerful nonetheless. Anyway, if you’re looking for 95 minutes to kill, this is a lot of fun.
Adrift is currently playing in the UK.