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movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Alive

Starring: Ethan Hawke, Vincent Spano
Director: Frank Marshall
Rated: R
RunTime: 125 Minutes
Release Date: January 1993
Genres: Action, Drama

*Also starring: Josh Hamilton, Bruce Ramsay, John Haymes Newton, David Kriegel, Kevin Breznahan, Sam Behrens, Illeana Douglas, Jack Noseworthy, Christian Meoli, John Malkovich

Review by Brian Koller
3½ stars out of 4

"Alive" is one of the best disaster films ever made. This may be because it is based on a true story, thus avoiding the usual disaster formula of presenting us with dubious (but demographically diverse) characters and unrealistic heroes. Another difference from the typical disaster movie is that there are no real villians in "Alive". The character that comes closest is the plane's mechanic, whose greatest crime is stealing an injured girl's coat.

The story is very compelling, and the subtitle "Miracle of the Andes" is well deserved. (Although "Horror of the Andes" may be even more appropriate.) It is a miracle that anyone returned from those mountains alive.

"Alive" begins with a chartered plane full of Uruguayan soccer players, en route to Chile. There is a storm, and their plane crashes into the desolate Andes mountains. The plane crash is stunning. I doubt that Hollywood has ever done another better.

About half the passengers, mostly young male soccer players, survive the crash. They nurse the wounded, obtain shelter from the cold, obtain water, ration food, and wait for a rescue that doesn't arrive. Needed leadership is initially provided by angst-ridden team captain Antonio (Vincent Spano) and medical student Roberto (Josh Hamilton), but later surprisingly arises from Nando (Ethan Hawke). Antonio's despair, Roberto's pettiness, and Nando's vision all come across with credibility. The nature of the story provides dramatic tension, and the setting (the Andes mountains) provides superb cinematography.

"Alive" will always be infamous in film circles because of its subject matter: the survivors were forced to cannibalize the dead, since there was no other source of food. It is unfairly cynical to judge the film by this, but undoubtedly that has kept the film from receiving its due merits or box office success.

Copyright 1999 Brian Koller

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