I’ve been on a survival film kick the past couple of weeks, I’ll give brief rundowns.
Everest (2015): A somewhat loose depiction of the 1996 Everest disaster (Into Thin Air), where 13 people died on descent from summit. They filmed in a couple of different mountain regions for authenticity, so the presentation is pretty solid despite some noticeable cgi in a couple spots. It was a good, straightforward breakdown of what happened with minimal fluff thrown in.
In the Heart of the Sea (2015): Ron Howard film based on the Essex whaling ship disaster, where a whaling ship was stoved by a whale and the crew were forced to cannibalize each other at sea in order to survive. It’s a brutal, rough story that they unfortunately weigh down by putting too much emphasis on the whale that downed them, along with a really loud and sort of obnoxious Hollywood score. I would have preferred a more grounded take on the story, which is arguably one of the most harrowing survival stories of all time. Still not bad and worth watching since it’s the only full-fledged film based on this story, it does follow the general timeline of events well enough even if it throws in way too many dramatic flourishes for my taste.
Thirteen Lives (2022): Another Ron Howard movie, this one based on the Thai cave rescue from 2018. This was very good, no bullshit really it’s just a grounded depiction of an unprecedented rescue that everyone involved thought was near-impossible. What they collective rescue effort accomplished, specifically the divers and the doctors, is just one of the most incredible human achievements in recent history and this film is absolutely worth seeing just to witness it portrayed so realistically.
The Wave (2015): Film about a hypothetical landslide-induced-tsunami occurring in Norway, an area that apparently does have some concerning seismic activity that very well could lead to an event like this. It’s centered on a meteorologist trying to predict, and ultimately survive, an impending tsunami. Great movie, it’s grounded, scientific and emotional with really convincing effects.
The Quake (2018): Sequel to The Wave following the same protagonist, similar in concept except this is about a larger-magnitude earthquake hitting a major city directly instead of a landslide. Not quite as strong as The Wave, but it hits a lot of the same notes and takes some respectable chances beyond that. This film sort of solidified this duology as a new genre I want to call “meteorology superheroism”, it can be a little goofy at points but the way it all plays out is quite gripping.
Alive (1993): Centers on the 1972 Andes plane crash, and what the survivors had to endure for 72 days in order to make it out alive. Not much fabrication if any which is nice, it’s blunt and sort of shocking in certain areas, but it does leave out a lot of the more lurid details from the real story which does leave it feeling somewhat sanitized. There’s a new movie coming out on Netflix literally tomorrow called Society of the Snow which will be another straight depiction of this story, it’s getting great reception so I think that it’ll be worth checking out.
All is Lost (2013): Fictional story about an older man (Robert Redford) who gets his hull breached while sailing in the middle of the sea. While not based on anything specifically, it shares strong elements with many real stories of people in situations exactly like this. There’s almost no dialogue, you spend the film watching this man just try to work his situation out the best that he can.
bonus: Frozen (2010): This is not a good movie. It’s about a group of teens who get stuck on a ski-lift after closing hours. It’s a story that could have been captivating, getting stuck in a situation like that would be mind-bendingly terrifying and the chances of making it out alive really aren’t high. But the dialogue is really bad, the characters are annoying in a way that seems unintentional, and the movie treats wolves like they’re rabid murder machines rather than cautious creatures that attack humans very, very rarely. Watch this if you want something funny-bad, it is genuinely a good time in that sense.
Deliverance (1972): I’ve always known that this film was notorious for a certain shocking scene that occurs about halfway through, but that was my only exposure. Up until recently, I only knew this as “the movie where that happens” because everyone who spoke to me about the movie made such a big deal about this one sequences. And yes, it is brutal and ugly, but the film itself is excellent. It’s about four guys who go up-river on a boating trip in the southern states, and after a violent encounter with a pair of locals out in the middle of nowhere they find themselves forced to make tough decisions and fight for their survival. It’s sort of fascinating to watch, because of the extremely clear influence that it’s had on so many survival-horror movies that I’ve seen over the years. There’s a movie that came out in 2018 that I really love called Calibre that basically takes a version of this concept, twists it and stretches out the final ten minutes into something gripping and feature-length. I highly recommend both movies.