More in-depth film festival coverage than any other website!
Home Reviews  Articles  Release Dates Coming Soon  DVD  Top 20s Criticwatch  Search
Public Forums  Festival Coverage  Contests About 

Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 33.33%
Average: 23.61%
Pretty Bad: 5.56%
Total Crap: 2.78%

2 reviews, 60 user ratings

Latest Reviews

Stylist, The by Peter Sobczynski

Hidden Man by Jay Seaver

Writer's Odyssey, A by Jay Seaver

Endgame (2021) by Jay Seaver

Tom and Jerry by Peter Sobczynski

Stylist, The by Rob Gonsalves

Rumble Fish by Jack Sommersby

Saint Maud by Rob Gonsalves

One Night in Miami... by Rob Gonsalves

Wanting Mare, The by Rob Gonsalves

subscribe to this feed

Alive (1993)
[] Buy posters from this movie
by Rob Gonsalves

"A tame vision of cannibalism, typical for Hollywood."
3 stars

'Alive,' the go-eat-'em-on-the-mountain survival saga based on Piers Paul Read's nonfiction bestseller, hits its peak in the first fifteen minutes. Literally.

It's 1972, and a small plane carrying a Uruguayan rugby team over the Andes to Chile runs into bad weather. Director Frank Marshall (Arachnophobia) stages what follows about as skillfully as I ever expect to see it handled. When the plane dips to perilous depths and scrapes the tip of a mountain, it cracks apart like a great glass piñata; screaming passengers are sucked out into the sky, seats and all. The moment is at once horrifying and thrilling -- spectacle with a cruelly random touch. Later, we will find some of these people frozen in the snow, still in their seats, like tombstones.

Yet this version of Alive (there was a cheesier film on the same subject, Survive!, in 1977) most often sacrifices realism to uplift. Alive spent twenty years in Hollywood limbo, because studio executives doubted whether the mass audience was ready for people eating the dead to survive. The question is moot, since Marshall doesn't make us watch much of it. Or anything else potentially upsetting, either. Once the survivors of the crash begin their long waiting game until help arrives, Alive goes flat and never really recovers. Part of the problem is that there's no way to get to know 29 people in two hours; screenwriter John Patrick Shanley (Moonstruck) singles out five or six of them, who nevertheless remain cyphers. Once the men among them start growing beards, there's the new problem of telling them apart. Each time someone dies, we don't feel the weight of it because the others don't seem to. Yesterday he was captain of the rugby team; today he's an appetizer.

Alive gives you the impression that the survivors got over their initial qualms about cannibalism pretty quickly. According to Read, "Of all the work that had to be done, cutting meat off the bodies of their dead friends was the most difficult and unpleasant .... If the eyes remained open, they would close them, for it was hard to cut into a friend under his glassy gaze, however sure they were that the soul had long since departed." The movie touches on the survivors' spiritual fervor (try counting how many "Hail Mary"s they say) but doesn't get too deeply into the notion that many of them considered cannibalism a sin against God, and had to get past that in order to live. Instead, Marshall points the camera at the mountaintops gleaming in the sun, while characters issue such religious belches as "God is everywhere today."

I suppose I should point out that gorehounds expecting a barf-bag delight, with entrails pulled from bellies in pink Technicolor, are in for a letdown. Alive is a very tidy movie about eating the dead. Here's Read again: "Having overcome their revulsion against eating the liver, it was easier to move on to the heart, kidneys, and intestines." In the movie, we see them nibbling on frozen swatches of buttocks; they might as well be chewing Slim Jims. We also miss out on the preparation of the meat (sometimes they cooked it when the weather was fair enough to allow for a fire). I don't ask for gross gut-munching á la Dawn of the Dead, but we should have some sense of the spiritual and physical revulsion these people had to overcome. That's part of what makes their story remarkable. But Marshall and Shanley dance around their story's unpleasant center.

Alive also suffers from a malady common to survival films: It's tough to sit through. We're stuck in the snow right along with the survivors; after about half an hour of disappointments, botched escape attempts, avalanches, and deaths, we'd just as soon not be in their company any more (and Alive feels very long). When the lights go up, you hit the aisle running. Despite the best efforts of stars Ethan Hawke as the heroic Nando Perrado, Vincent Spano as Antonio Balbi, and Illeana Douglas as Liliana Methol, the characters are interchangeable, the conflicts underdramatized. And when the helicopters finally come to the rescue, there isn't quite the rush of adrenaline we expect and need -- just relief that the ordeal, theirs and ours, is over.

I admire "Alive," in an odd way, for staying true to the mind-numbing boredom and frustration of survival in the wild. But why should we have to go through it?

link directly to this review at
originally posted: 12/30/06 11:33:39
[printer] printer-friendly format  

User Comments

12/29/17 morris campbell grisly but potent survival film 4 stars
4/23/17 steve does well with a less than compelling (as film) story 4 stars
10/17/13 elaine wonderful 5 stars
2/10/13 Mr I Anderson An exellent film ordinary film weel donethen 5 stars
9/10/11 rato it's a touching film that puts each life in perspective, but cannibalism is not an issue. 4 stars
3/11/11 bored mom I had more fun watching PBS documentaries. But I'm hungry. Give me a chunk of the copilot. 2 stars
2/19/11 Ark One of the guys that survived is now a big motivational speaker, how to season your friends 4 stars
11/08/10 Malevolent-Pyfer-Soul a movie about real leadersh 4 stars
5/03/10 aileen guerrero its really overwhelming to see those people resort to cannibalism 4 stars
2/22/10 Joan Meister Very good engrossing movie. 4 stars
9/08/08 Shayle Great, funny, and scary to be stranded iin a mountain. 5 stars
4/21/08 Simon Molony its a bit rotten when dey eat eachother 4 stars
4/07/08 paul good movie, not enough violence and wasnt realistic because they were far 2 calm. 3 stars
4/05/08 Pamela White moving movie of endurance 5 stars
4/02/08 mabel msopero great movie for great minds with a human inclination 5 stars
1/06/08 this movie is really fascinating and uplifting.. 5 stars
10/29/07 dean i think that this movie is fucken shit 5 stars
9/24/07 sofia I think its a good movie, watching it in theatres, u would enjoy it. 5 stars
9/16/07 gesh86 alrite...........great picture and sound 3 stars
6/13/07 Michelle Made me laugh, wonderful true story but didn't care for the acting 2 stars
3/29/07 tom poor acting and monotonous. Wouldn’t recommend it. I gave it two stars because of the plane 2 stars
3/01/07 Mark Roberts The religious issue in the movei wasn't touched on much 4 stars
12/29/06 David Pollastrini great fx 5 stars
9/15/06 debbi This movie was excellent. would definitely recommend it to anyone. 5 stars
3/30/06 dav decent its on tv now seems ok for an old movie 3 stars
9/14/05 Michelle this movie sucked. I watched it today and I was laughing my ass off. 3 stars
8/16/05 ES SOB these guys had it rough, start to finish you'll be glad you weren't there 4 stars
1/20/05 Karen Good movie but book was better -- the film just didn't show how MUCH they went through. 4 stars
2/01/04 Miranda Brilliant really opened my eyes to the beauty and value of life...just see it. 5 stars
5/12/03 Jack Bourbon Not violent enough. 2 stars
11/21/02 Stevo Plane crash is superbly done, rest of the movie pretty average 3 stars
10/16/02 Michelle Excellent Movie! 5 stars
10/13/02 Sez I wouldnt give it 1 star. Its gross! Only twisted and sic ppl would find it amusing to see! 1 stars
10/06/02 C/Sgt.Ballesteros FC Its just great for them to know that it was awesome. 5 stars
5/29/02 David GREAT 5 stars
3/04/02 JoAnna Oropeza great! a real adventure that makes you thankful for being alive. 5 stars
12/28/01 audreytremblay jai adore ce film!!!jai lu le livre des milliers de fois..... 5 stars
12/17/01 Lourdes Toscano Wonderful, i think it really shows love about people around you, love about life, about god 5 stars
6/05/01 Monday Morning I loved how they ate the butts first. NUMMY! 4 stars
5/24/01 Erik North A memorable docudrama in the style of ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN 5 stars
4/09/01 Larry Wilson Great effects by ILM in what must be the most cheerful movie about cannibalism ever made 3 stars
4/06/01 ashley I liked the movie loved the book. I couldnt put the book down. Awesome, just Awesome... 5 stars
4/06/01 BSHAW Disgusting, sick, gross, yick!!! 4 stars
3/06/01 catherine henry great plane crash, gorgeous scenery, interesting human story, thought provoquing 5 stars
2/23/01 Shahj Great movie dont eat any thing while watching it. 5 stars
2/07/01 lisa they shoulda taken the train. 4 stars
11/28/00 Sp103 Yeah, its another movie. 3 stars
11/06/99 adrienne blows i saw the mivie at school and alot of my class mand me think it is a really good movie 4 stars
10/19/99 Meepos Top show. Fanastic crash. Save me a leg. 4 stars
7/04/99 J-Dogg This is an amazing, highly UNDERRATED struggle of human nature. Watch while you're hungry. 5 stars
4/18/99 jimmy jam Crazy ass movie. Watch it on a snowy day!! 5 stars
3/02/99 Rachel Loved this flick! 5 stars
1/28/99 donkey_dew Aye, aye, wonderful no? yes! Yes, yes very very good. 5 stars
10/27/98 Silent Rob A well done adaptation of the horrific true story. 4 stars
10/24/98 Negative Creep If HBS goes down. I want yall to know, You can eat me PSSST Jason Guy is rotten ;) 3 stars
9/01/98 J-Guy pretty decent. 3 stars
8/31/98 Mister Whoopee So far as survival/cannibalism tales go, this is up there. 4 stars
Note: Duplicate, 'planted,' or other obviously improper comments
will be deleted at our discretion. So don't bother posting 'em. Thanks!
Your Name:
Your Comments:
Your Location: (state/province/country)
Your Rating:

Discuss this movie in our forum

  15-Jan-1993 (R)


  02-Feb-1994 (MA)

Home Reviews  Articles  Release Dates Coming Soon  DVD  Top 20s Criticwatch  Search
Public Forums  Festival Coverage  Contests About Australia's Largest Movie Review Database.
Privacy Policy | HBS Inc. | |   

All data and site design copyright 1997-2017, HBS Entertainment, Inc.
Search for
reviews features movie title writer/director/cast