“Hurricane Raymond has been upgraded to a category 5”
“Should we be worried” says Tami. Well, yes dear, you really should.
In the glorious surroundings of Tahiti, the American footloose traveller Tami Oldham (Shailene Woodley, “Divergent trilogy“, “The Descendents) meets British footloose traveller Richard Sharp (Sam Claflin, “Journey’s End“, “Me Before You“) and a nautical-based love beckons. Richard is hired by his friends Peter (Jeffrey Thomas) and Christine (Elizabeth Hawthorne) to sail their luxury 44 foot yacht Hazana from Tahiti to Tami’s home city of San Diego. But they hadn’t reckoned on the decidedly un-romantic attentions of Raymond and severely battered and bruised it’s a battle for survival on the vast expanse of the Pacific.
I was intrigued by this film as it seems to have divided the professional critics’ opinions: Kevin Maher in The Times gave it five stars… five! Conversely Edward Porter in The Sunday Times gave it two stars. After seeing the film, I’m with Mr Maher on this one (breaking convention as I haven’t exactly been in tune with this reviewer recently!).
As a story with romantic undertones, the film will live or die on your belief in this aspect. And fortunately the romance works. There is real chemistry between the pair despite them striking you as an odd couple. This is in no small part to the quality of the acting: Claflin proves again that he is a safe pair of hands as a male lead, but it’s Shailene Woodley, who has to carry large portions of the film single-handedly, who again demonstrates just how excellent an actress she is. The camera of Tarentino favourite Robert Richardson (“The Hateful Eight“, “Django Unchained”) stays tightly on Woodley’s features dramatically capturing her tiniest of grimaces.
Woodley is also deliciously un-Hollywood, getting to where she has through acting talent as much as her looks. Yes, she has a great body (liberally, perhaps a tad lasciviously, featured here both above and under the water) but her face is gloriously assymettical with little wrinkles appearing unexpectedly when she grins. She’s a good role model for young girls that perfection is not a pre–requisite for success. (What’s perhaps less good, role-model-wise, is that Woodley allegedly ate only 350 calories a day to get to the emaciated state seen at the end of the film! But to compensate, it’s notable that she looks so much better/sexier at the start of the film than at the end).
It’s also interesting to note that the 27-year old Woodley is also a co-producer on the film, a sign perhaps that as well as being the ‘Meryl Streep of the future'(TM), she is also likely to become a significant mover and shaker in Hollywood when getting there.
A bit like “The Shallows“, it’s unapologetically a B movie, but it’s delivered with such style and chutzpah that it drives its way through the apallingly cheesy dialogue just as the poor Hazana bashes its way throught the mountainous seas. It’s even self-mocking, with Tami rolling her eyes at the corniness of Richard’s, very English, attempts at romantic dialogue. The script is more successful in establishing back-stories for Tami and Richard, demonstrating a degree of parallelism that perhaps better explains their mutual attraction. The irony of fate taking Tami back to her damaged past is exquisite.
A controversial and brave decision by Icelandic director Baltasar Kormákur is to constantly flashback between the survival scenes and Tami and Richard’s courtship that leads up to the cataclismic event. This can be a little distracting, but given the gut-wrenching twist in the third act a linear storytelling would simply have not worked. It’s very well done too, with matched cross-cuts that really work well. Kormákur’s previous film “Everest” was his biggest hit to date, and I noted the cheeky addition of the book “Everest” on the bookshelf on Richard’s boat! (As an aside, “Everest” is for some reason the film review on One Mann’s Movies that has been viewed more often than any other… no idea why… must be down to search engine results!)
Extraordinarily, it’s a true story with the closing frames of the film being genuinely moving.
With many similarities to the excellent Robert Redford thriller “All Is Lost”, this is a robust and enthralling thriller-cum-romance that unusually delivers on both counts. The romance is believable and the thrills suitably thrilling, especially when a panic-ridden Tami is separated from her one patch of dry land. Although slightly let down by some dodgy dialogue, sitting amongst all the big-hitter summer blockbusters this is a movie you should definitely seek out.
Fad Rating: FFFFf.