Water is in a class with spiders when it comes to irrational terror. There is a difference, however. Water can kill. Spiders on the whole don't.

Adrift is not Open Water 2, even though both films are based on true events and concern people lost at sea. Adrift doesn't have sharks, only human fallibility and naked panic.

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A group of friends who enjoyed a wild sailing holiday in Mexico five years earlier reunite when Dan (Eric Dane), the playboy wannabee, invites them onto a millionaire's yacht. Zach (Niklaus Lange) and Lauren (Ali Hillis) come as a couple, while Amy (Susan May Pratt) has married James (Richard Speight Jn) and they have a toddler Sarah (Mattea Gabarretta). Typically, Dan has brought along his latest trophy squeeze Michelle (Cameron Richardson), a lean, vivacious, freckled blonde, with whom he frolics playfully.

The hearty banter becomes tiresome after a very short time. Instigated by Dan's waggish immaturity, you can tell that the others, particularly James and Amy, are no longer amused. Michelle enters into the spirit, because what else can she do? She doesn't know these people and the need to "have a good time" puts pressure on relationships.

The story of Adrift is not about laddish fornication, sun kissed waves and chilled Chardonnay. It's about the fear of drowning. Amy wears a life jacket at all times. She has a particular reason for being afraid that is flashbacked to the audience at various times, so when Dan scoops her up in his arms and jumps overboard, as a joke, she is traumatised. What is more serious, and possibly something that Dan overlooked, everyone else, with the exception of Sarah, who is asleep on James and Amy's bed, are swimming and no one has remembered to lower the steps, which means they can't get back on deck.

The idea is numbingly terrifying for those who have panic attacks when out of their depths. The reality is even worse. They argue amongst themselves, vainly attempt to find ways onto the yacht and slowly realise that they could die. The tension is never allowed to slacken, as bad things occur one after the other.

With the exception of Amy and James, it is difficult to empathise with the characters, although easy enough with the situation, which could hardly be more frightening. The film is well directed by Hans Horn, who understands that fear is contagious. The only flaw is the final scene, which appears to be deliberately deceiving. This goes against the grain of everything that has gone before.

Reviewed on: 07 Sep 2006
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Six party-goers find themselves stranded in the ocean, unable to get back aboard their yacht. Out to own on DVD from December 26.
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Read more Adrift reviews:

Moominkat ***
Jennie Kermode *

Director: Hans Horn

Writer: Adam Kreutner, Collin McMahon

Starring: Susan May Pratt, Richard Speight Jr., Niklaus Lange, Ali Hills, Cameron Richardson, Eric Dane, Mattea Gabarretta

Year: 2006

Runtime: 95 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Germany


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