In 1972, Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 took off from Montevideo, Uruguay, bound for Chile. The chartered plane was carrying the Uruguayan rugby team, along with their friends and family members, 45 people in total. Cloudy weather and navigation errors led to the plane crashing in the Andes Mountains and stranding the survivors with little food, no heat, and little hope of rescue.
Everyone knows this story (even though I always heard it was a soccer team); everyone has thought about what they would do if forced into that situation. It’s a nightmare scenario that happened to people in real life.
“Alive,” directed by Frank Marshall, is the story of crash and its aftermath, of the survivors and the dead. It’s a story about how far people will go to live, and how much life means to those who can lose it at any moment. “Alive” tells such a great story that I was more than willing to overlook the film’s failings.
For starters, there are a lot of people, and while I appreciate screenwriter John Patrick Shanley attempts to give everyone a name and personality, when all the characters are so similar (in look and action), it’s hard to remember who’s who.
The director, probably trying to get more action in to the story, relies on disaster movie clichs (although the true-to-life cannibalism aspects of the story are dealt with tastefully).
The actors and makeup artists do their best, but there’s really no way to show the physical hell of what the survivors went through without actually putting people through that situation (which would probably violate some union rules).
But really, those are minor flaws; I don’t need to know a character’s name to be sad that he or she died (especially when I know that person died in real life).
“Alive” is not a great movie, but the story is one that exists in all our nightmares; while the mechanics of filmmaking can’t really compete with real life in this instance, it’s close enough to sink in. Now I’m off to go read the book.
Written by John Patrick Shanley
Directed by Frank Marshall
Starring: Ethan Hawke (Nando Parrado)
Vincent Spano (Antonio Balbi)
Josh Hamilton (Roberto Canessa)