Re-Watch: Alive (1993)

Director: Frank Marshall
Writer: John Patrick Shanley
Based on: Piers Paul Read‘s book Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors
Cast: Ethan HawkeVincent SpanoJosh HamiltonBruce RamsayJohn NewtonDavid KriegelKevin BreznahanIlleana Douglas, Josh Lucas
Seen on: 6.1.2015

A Uruguayan rugby team is on its way to Chile for a game. But as they fly over the Andes, their plane is experiencing trouble and they crash. Those who are not killed instantly face intense cold, hunger and still have to deal with the injured. As more and more time passes, it becomes increasingly less likely that a rescue mission can find them – they will have to save themselves.

I saw Alive when I was a kid and I was deeply impressed by it and the story back then. So I wanted to revisit it 20 years later to see if it still holds up to scrutiny. The result is rather mixed.


I didn’t realize as a kid (or at least absolutely didn’t remember anymore) that the team in question is actually Uruguayan and not USAmerican. It’s certainly not like they made an effort to include that fact in the film: all the actors are from the USA (and not even latino, at least not in the bigger roles) there is no Spanish to be heard and only the names give any indication that maybe these aren’t all USAmericans who happen to play for Uruguay. The blatancy of that white-washing is quite astounding.

Putting that aside what you get is a rather mediocre film telling an extraordinary story. Their fight for survival, their resourcefulness and their bravery is amazing and that as many of them survived at all is simply astonishing. So it’s no wonder that you would make a film about that. That stuff has Hollywood written all over it.

alive1But the way Marshall and Shanley handle the story just isn’t too great. The dialogues feel forced, as do the cheesy moments inbetween. The acting is wooden more often than not. And you never really get a sense of the characters. To me, all of these guys remained mostly interchangeable and I couldn’t really tell you who was who even five minutes after the film.

That being said, they do manage to create some tension, simply on the merit of the predicament the guys find themselves in. And some scenes end up very memorable and had pretty much burned themselves into my brain 20 years ago – I remembered the pact and some of the (very nice) imagery in much detail (what I didn’t remember at all was that they don’t stay put but start to climb that mountain). But the film just fails to impress that much.

alive2Summarizing: oh well.

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