Screenwriter: Adam Kreutner, David Mitchell
Starring: Susan May Pratt, Richard Speight Jr, Niklaus Lange, Ali Hillis, Cameron Richardson, Eric Dane
Running time: 94 mins
Adrift begins in flashback mode as we see four high school friends pledge life-long friendship. Skipping ahead a few years, the four friends reassemble for Zach's Lange) birthday aboard a luxury yacht provided by Dan (Dane) along with Amy's (Pratt) husband James (Speight) and baby, and Dan's token girlfriend Michelle (Richardson).
A very short while after we see them leave the coast, however, trouble ensues. Whilst four of them happily splash about, only Dan and Amy, terrified of water since she saw her father drown as a child, remain aboard. Being the helpful sort, Dan decides to grab the scarred woman and jump overboard with her so as to face her fear. However, it transpires that he hadn't thought to lower the ladders, so the group are left trying to find their way back onto the boat for the next one and a half hours while baby Sara bawls her little lungs out over a baby speaker.
Based on true events, Adrift follows in the wake of 2003 aquatic thriller Open Water and is much the same as its predecessor apart from the absence of sharks - in fact, in other territories it's being billed as Open Water 2. The basic scenario - bobbing up and down indefinitely whilst those present go out of their minds with panic as salvation sits frustratingly out of reach - is a horrifying one and truly considering it is enough to frighten you. How then, does the movie fail to do so?
Whilst the acting itself is adequate, the characterisation is far too shallow for us to feel much about any of the characters, most of whom we expect are doomed anyway after a while. Each character is two-dimensional, with the writers taking no time to build up their personalities before plunging them into the water. The exception here is the water-fearing Amy, who is always seen wearing a lifejacket and whose agreement to come on a cruising weekend is a puzzler in itself, as is the fact that she's the only one who isn't panicked.
Their ineffective and ill-conceived attempts at overcoming their predicament simply make the characters even more frustrating as they systematically go around scuppering possible means of escape. Admittedly, this is partly explained by their panic, but not wholly.
In its favour, Adrift does have some moments of suspense, created by some effective camerawork - the camera bobbing up and down alongside the stranded seafarers gives us a good sense of agoraphobia. However, the cinematography is a mixed bag - at one point we get a scene of one character crying with despair from four angles. In slow motion.
The film is also unpredictable, though mostly through the characters' knack of taking random and strange decisions such as throwing away potentially useful items like mobile phones and knives.
At times Adrift achieves the suspense for which it aims, but the characterisation and narrative fail to do the situation justice.