Published May 07, 2008By now, most people have either seen the Ethan Hawke film (Alive) or at least heard of the story of the Uruguayan rugby team that crashed into the Andes in 1972 and had to survive for two harrowing months in the snowy tundra with nothing to eat but the dead. To be sure, its one of the most grizzly and inspiring survival stories ever. But theres so much more to it than just the sensationalism, and director Gonzalo Arijon (friends in real life with many of the survivors) understands how to get at the heart of the matter.
Of the 45 people on board the plane, only 16 ultimately survived. Thirty-five years after the flight, Arijon reunites all 16 survivors back at the crash site, along with many of their children, to share stories and remember those bitter days in the mountains.
Its a deeply moving film thats unfortunately marred by totally unnecessary re-enactments of the flight and the 70-plus days following the crash. When you have at your disposal the magnificent Andean landscape, old photographs taken during the period after the crash, archival footage of the men after their rescue and access to all the survivors and their families do you really need to confuse matters by hiring actors to pretend to be crash victims?
At several moments in the film, staged flashbacks had the disorienting effect of making me wonder what or who we were supposed to be looking at. It was already difficult enough to match the aged faces of the interview subjects with the grainy old photos of the teens from 1972 but throwing in an extra layer of actors was confusing at best.
Old photos of the men in their youth, with the friends who didnt survive the ordeal, might have made for a more static picture but also a considerably more powerful one. When youve got a story this potent, why not let it speak for itself? (Independent)