I didn’t lead a fairly sheltered life growing up. When you are raised the way I was, you tend to see many disturbing things, And yet first watching “Alive” was a very interesting experience because it shook me down to the core. Watching people eat their loved ones and best friends is harrowing enough but having to ask myself how far I’d go to survive in the middle of nowhere is something else entirely. We’ve all heard of the Donner party, and we relive that same experience with the Uruguayan Rugby team who found themselves at death’s door after a horrible plane crash left them stranded in the snow covered Andes where help was literally hundreds of miles away. Losing their lives, and their sanity the group had to rely on their faith and their strength to make it through day by day being forced to live on rations and inevitably each other.
While “Alive” doesn’t tell the entire story it does indeed force us to question our own mortality and asks us to consider how far we’d go to survive in a dire situation. If it came down to the wire and we were on the brink of starving to death, would you really eat parts of your dead friends to live to see tomorrow? While many would outright refuse it, I think if faced with the situation we would all come around to the option and re-consider it. Frank Marshall’s adaptation of the book aims to focus more on the Rugby players rather than the rescue mission that ensued while they were stranded. Enlisting talented young actors like Ethan Hawke and Vincent Spano, “Alive” chronicles the fight for survival of the Uruguayan Rugby Team after a vicious plane crash leaves them to tend to their friends without any supplies and are forced to watch their comrades die slow painful deaths.
The pilots are burned alive, many are forced to endure gaping infectious wounds and others suffocate in a freak avalanche. Had this not been based on actual events, many would have been quick to write Marshall’s film off as pure sensationalism, but once you come to the realization that most if not all of this actually occurred it becomes pretty exhausting after to sit through. The survivors here can never seem to catch a break and whenever there seems to be a point in their situation where they’re on the verge of making it through, there’s always another calamity on the way that just makes their situation much more tragic and dire. Marshall uses the landscapes of the Andes to his full advantage, taking the scenery and implementing it to stress the barren hopeless wasteland these poor people are at the mercy of.
The film always sets us up for hope and dashes it almost immediately and eventually the story reaches a point where not only the Rugby team but the audience just loses any and all faith in survival. The performances from the ensemble is quite captivating as Marshall enlists notable character actors to portray the principal characters while Ethan Hawke portrays Nando Parrado, the team member who is forced to play leader when tragedy strikes the team in the middle of the night. Hawke’s performance is only one in a slew of standout roles from the man and here he’s a real standout. The power in the story is not just the endless bad luck these poor people suffered, but how their faith kept them going even in the face of losing everything they held dear.
One of the many glaring flaws of this depiction is that Marshall chooses to downplay the physical effects this disaster had on its survivors. So while we’re being told that they’re suffering from frost bite and are starving to death, they tend to look basically clean and lean almost pulling us out of the narrative during many instances. Whether this was at the request of the cast or the director, the movie quite obviously plays like a typical Hollywood production by downplaying the physical torment starvation and sub-zero conditions have on the body. Aside from exploring the injuries everything else involving the freezing conditions and the effects if had on their bodies is considerably glossed over and never quite touched on again. It can be pretty distracting. In spite of some glaring flaws in regards to realism, “Alive” is a pretty harrowing and rather disturbing look at the struggles of survival in the face of certain death and director Frank Marshall directs quite a unique film.