Film review: Alive (1993)


No spoilers in this review. This is my third lifetime viewing of this film. I love survival in the wild stories, and to me this is one of the best. I think it demands to be seen on a big screen, or at least a large TV.

Based on an event in 1972, a south American rugby team crosses the Andies to play a game in Chile. But unexpected things occur. It's also a book by Piers Paul Read.

It strikes me as very realistic, the situation is desperate, the atmosphere is so cold that I found myself trembling and shivering along with the characters.

Some scenes are a little difficult to watch, not exactly what you’d call family entertainment, but borderline horror movie stuff. This is one of the reasons some people dislike this film or label it unpleasant based on a few scenes in the middle of the film.

The special effects at the beginning are very well-done for 1993, they didn’t have the advanced CGI technology that you use today. I noticed a number of these kind of films are B-films, but this is an A-film with a budget of $32 million.


It helps they are a group, they can keep each other active by giving moral support. Group mentality resembles the rugby team with a leader taking charge. Desperate situations like these really separate the strong from the weak, the men from the boys, the rational from irrational, and so on.

It stars one of my favourite actors Ethan Hawke, but none of the actors really dominate, it’s a group story with an ensemble cast.

You should really avoid reading lots of reviews before watching this film, most of them contain spoilers unfortunately. Once you’ve seen this movie, I doubt you will ever forget it, powerful and moving. The kind of story that stays with you. It gives you that first person experience, as if you are there with them in the snow trying to survive. As another reviewer writes: “the movie does a good job of raising the "What would you do?" issues”.

Readers, any thoughts ?

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6 comments:

  1. I love ALIVE. Wore out my VHS copy of it. I've seen it too many times to remember, and every time I cry. I love how real it feels. I've read the book it's based on and a few years ago I read the biography done by Nando as he recounts the ordeal for the first time. Both books are great.

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  2. @Screenwriting Spinster : I agree, the movie is highly rewatchable ( : I haven't read the books, thanks for recommending them.

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  3. Good film. I've always thought Alive features one of the scariest and most realistic plane crashes in movie history. The DVD had a good documentary about the real events if I remember rightly.

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  4. @Dan : Thanks for the dvd info. Maybe I can persuade you to do a top 10 on your website of best "survival in the wild movies" ? ( :

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  5. First of all, I only saw about half of this movie because they were showing it on TV late at night, and I fell asleep (but promised myself to finish watching it some day). So thanks for writing a spoiler-free review. I wish Ethan Hawke got more time on screen though.
    I was telling my relatives about this movie the other day, and we were discussing what we would do in this situation. I think that I probably wouldn't be able to kill anybody, but if there were dead human bodies, and I was dying from starvation, then I'd probably eat them to survive.

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  6. Saw the movie when it first came out. Can't remember what I thought at the time unfortunately. Ironic part; why they are trying to survive, there is ski resort (closed for the season and fully stocked) just over the other ridgeline. If they had gotten and did a little exploration things would have been very, very different.

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